It's been a while, yeah? Sometimes real life gets in the way. I don't own Harry Potter, and I'm grateful to be allowed to write about him.
Three days passed with Harry and Hermione going through the same routine during the day: meals, physical training, and mental training. They were getting better at occlumency shields, good enough to satisfy Remus (who had been suspicious of Harry and Hermione being a couple and thought they were possibly slacking off on studies). Every night, one would sneak into the other's room, and they would talk, or just sleep, or snog, depending on how the day had gone.
Mrs. Granger had apparently not informed the rest of the house about Harry and Hermione, and Harry privately suspected she thought it had been a one-time thing, but she hadn't come back looking for them. They woke up earlier to try to dissuade anyone from finding out, because the last thing Harry wanted to hear was a full week's worth of teasing from Sirius.
Both were worried when they hadn't received any communication from Neville; they wanted him to make the first move, but Hermione had resolved that they needed to send an owl to him by week's end if they hadn't heard from him, before he went back to Hogwarts and communication became trickier. Harry agreed.
It was that afternoon, in the midst of Sirius explaining the magical force behind occlumency (as he had gotten very good at it in Azkaban), Harry felt a slight buzz to the mirror in his pocket.
"Harry?" The nervous face of Neville Longbottom appeared in the mirror. "I-well, I wanted to tell you that I'm in to help you. I'm sorry I haven't sent an owl before this. Well, er, honestly, Gran and I have been talking it over. We don't know that me going back to Hogwarts is best. Gran—well, she heard some things, you see. Heard about the prophesy about you, way back, before my parents— right, well, before everything happened, since my parents were in the Order and they'd heard talk. The thing is, Harry, my parents were worried because I—I fit the prophesy, too. I don't doubt that it's you now, not with another foretelling like you said, but Dumbledore could try using me instead of you. Gran is worried that he'd sacrifice me easily."
Harry had a mix of confusion and fear plastered on his face. "Er, right, Neville. I wouldn't want to risk your life either. Do you think you need to go into hiding?"
"I don't know yet, Harry. I'm worried Dumbledore would come looking for me if I didn't go, but I'm not sure how good the wards are on the house. Gran would prefer that I come learn with you, she was really impressed by Hermione, but I don't want to be a bother."
"Nonsense, Neville!" Hermione appeared over Harry's shoulder. "You're not a bother at all and the house is big enough. Pack up your things soon, we will ask Melty to help bring you over."
"Thanks, Hermione— and Harry." Neville looked relieved. "It's not easy finding out that you have to fight evil when you're barely able to cast a spell."
"Neville, when we're done training, you'll know everything you need to know. And Hermione refuses to let us skip schoolwork, so things will be okay, " Harry said.
At that moment, Neville looked straight into the mirror and smiled, and Harry was able to use his goblin energy reading to read Neville. Much like Hermione, Harry could only feel the good in Neville, though his self-esteem needed improving.
"Right," Neville replied. "Well, I will call again when I'm done packing."
"See you then," replied Harry, cheerfully. He had been worried a lot about Neville wanting to join them, but it helped immensely that Neville would be coming to stay. He and Hermione went to tell the others about their new houseguest. Sirius seemed pleased to know that Augusta Longbottom was apparently not as keen on Dumbledore as he'd once thought, while Remus thought it interesting that both boys fit the profile of Dumbledore's prophesy.
After lunch, Neville was fetched by Remus and Melty, and his things were all set up in a deep green room not far from Harry and Hermione's rooms. He appeared pleased with the lodging, remarking on how nice France seemed so far. They spent the afternoon telling him everything they'd learned so far.
"You trained with the goblins, really?" Neville asked, looking impressed. "I've always heard that they're not exactly warm to sharing their secrets with wizards… a bit surly, actually."
"I'd thought so, too, but they were perfectly nice to us. They alluded to the prophesy being the reason, and I'm quite sure that they only taught us the bare minimum. Still, it's better than being wholly unprepared like Dumbledore would have us be," Hermione remarked.
"So have you talked to anyone outside of school this summer?" asked Neville.
"Not really — I sent some letters to Ron at the beginning of summer, like usual, but his replies were short. I know it has to do with this Order of Dumbledore's, most likely."
"Yes, I've — well, er, I've sort of been seeing Luna Lovegood this summer, as she was helping me with a herbology project I wanted to explore, and she mentioned the Weasleys weren't around, they're neighbors," Neville said.
"Who is Luna?" Hermione asked, as Harry thought the same thing.
"Oh, she's going to be a fourth year Ravenclaw. Most people think she's a bit barmy for the way she seems to believe in things that may not exist, but she's very kind. Her father owns the Quibbler."
"The Quibbler? I'm not so sure that's even a paper," Hermione scoffed.
"Perhaps not the most, no, but they are kind people and truly believe what they write," Neville countered, a soft look in his eyes. "I think you should get to know her. Maybe she could even help us," he said, slightly trembling when he suggested her help.
"We'd be glad to meet her, Neville," Harry said, glancing meaningfully at Hermione. She nodded.
"I hope so. I don't know how she and I are going to talk much with me being here," he said, slightly mournfully.
"Don't worry about that, Neville. Sirius is working on how to make or get more mirrors," Harry said as he stood. "But for now, we should get working on your occlumency and how to close your mind. The first step is meditation," he continued. "You're going to have to work on being more calm for this, Neville."
Neville gulped and nodded, but put in the hard work. Over the next few hours, Hermione was truly impressed by his efforts. He surpassed their work in their first two days of practice; Hermione wondered secretly if it was because Neville was used to shutting out the world.
Later, after a truly stunning culinary feast featuring local seafood and wine, the family and friends lingered around the table to talk.
Remus began. "Sirius and I have been discussing plans from day one here at Marauder Manor. The best bit of news we've gotten this week is that Voldemort seems to be in hiding, not ready to reveal himself yet, either. It may be that he does not want to prove Dumbledore right or wrong.
"There are tactical advantages to waiting: namely, learning more spells, concentrating on training hard, and the fact that none of us want to fight yet. We simply would be outnumbered, even if Dumbledore's Order was to help. Now that it's late August, we have little time left before school starts and before Harry, Hermione, and Neville show up as missing. Dumbledore is going to try to spin this; we're not quite sure yet on how to change that."
Everyone was quiet for a moment, before Neville spoke up. "What if we let Luna's father, the owner of the Quibbler, publish an article about how Hogwarts is unsafe?" His voice was still trembling slightly at the crowd of people at the table, but he looked confident.
"You know, Neville, that's not a bad idea. It's not the Prophet, but maybe we don't want the Prophet and that awful Skeeter writing about it," Hermione said. "But who would we get to write it?"
Sirius spoke up next. "Well, whoever it is, this Luna — assuming she's a classmate — is going to have to stay out of Dumbledore's clutches, too."
"Good point, Sirius," Harry replied. "Would she be welcome to come here?"
"I don't see why not," Sirius said. "However, that's asking a lot from a friend."
"But Hogwarts is dangerous," Hermione quipped back. "It's possible that her father might not want to send her back even if it wasn't for her being in danger."
The others at the table just nodded.
"I think everyone leaving Hogwarts should help write the article, and get the byline. That shows solidarity — and makes people wonder what Dumbledore is up to," Hermione continued. "It does mean things will be more dangerous for all of us, since he'll be after us. But we're going to have to do what's right, not what's easy. We can't keep quiet the whole time, or he'll have the entire country after us. At least, we should make them ask questions about what's happening."
No one could argue with that, and so Melty and Neville took a trip to Luna's house after dinner. He contacted Harry on the mirror a little while after arriving.
"Oh, hello, Harry, Hermione. This is Luna," Neville said as he turned the mirror towards her.
"Hello," they chorused as she replied in kind.
"Luna's father is here and has agreed to print the story, after some explanation. He was not happy about Luna being in danger first year." Neville swiveled the mirror back to his own face. "But he does agree that Luna will likely need to be somewhere safe once printed. He also thinks we need to rush to print before September 1st — if we can have it written tonight, it will be printed and go out in the post tomorrow."
"Oh! That's quite a rush!" Hermione exclaimed as she jumped up. "I hope he accepts pen and paper, because I'll be writing this quickly."
"That's no problem," they heard a voice through the mirror, assumed to be Mr. Lovegood. "This edition will likely sell out, just do your best."
"With that being the case," Neville said, "I'm going to come home immediately to help you write it. I'll bring Luna with me, if that's okay."
The logistics were squared away and Neville appeared with their newest houseguest. Luna certainly had a feeling of eclectic comfort about her; she was very calm, but with random interjections about things Hermione felt sure did not exist. Nevertheless, the four sat together and wrote a three foot long scroll on Dumbledore's failure to protect the school and how they no longer felt safe at Hogwarts. They sent Melty back over with the scroll just to make sure no extra time was lost, and waited for the fallout to arrive tomorrow morning.