AN: This story definitely needs some warnings. There will be violence, coarse language, deaths (though not a major character death), disciplinary caning, child abuse, and the use of unforgivables. You have been warned, if you are not okay reading about these things please read one of the fantastic stories on this sight that doesn't contain them. This story explores Neville's seventh year at Hogwarts where he leads the resistance against the Carrows, with the very quiet support and guidance of Headmaster Snape. I will strive to be as canon compliant as possible, I do not see this as AU but rather as what could have happened inside the structure of canon. This might be a two chapter one shot or it might turn into more, I'm not sure yet. Let me know what you think.

Severus Snape, reigning headmaster for the train wreck that Hogwarts had become, looked at the young man in front of him and sighed. Of course, it would be Neville Longbottom. He had hoped it would be one of those other bloody Gryffindors, but the fates always seemed to play their sick jokes on him. He knew he would have to protect, support and even perhaps surreptitiously mentor the leaders of the resistance, and he was waiting to see who would emerge. He couldn't believe it was Longbottom, but Longbottom it obviously was going to be. He had earned the ire of the Carrows, and had been uniting the resistance. Snape sighed, his life was never easy.

"I see, and why has this young Gryffindor been brought before me?" he asked, his voice silky and sardonic.

"Troublemaking," the male Carrow answered. Snape never differentiated based on their names, to do that would be to acknowledge that they had some human sentiment. They did not.

"I see," Snape answered. "And the standard punishments have proven not effective?"

"You said we had to start asking if we wanted to crucio a pureblood," he answered, his voice slightly whiney.

Snape inspected the young man, who had set his face to hide the fear he felt. He had been roughed up a bit - his uniform was tousled and he had a mark on his cheek rapidly darkening to a bruise.

"There will be no crucio for our Mr. Longbottom," Snape declared in a commanding voice. "His parents were driven insane by it, to which I assume there is a genetic weakness in them that was possibly inherited by their son. To crucio him would be to destroy him, and the Dark Lord would not be happy to give up such a valuable pawn as he is."

"Oh," the male Carrow answered, looking defeated. "Then just a good whipping, then?"

"I will administer Mr. Longbottom's punishment," Snape told the Carrow. "We do not want him permanently . . . damaged, though. I appreciate your . . . vigor in rooting out the troublemakers, Mr. Carrow but you may leave us now."

"Can't I watch?" Carrow asked, his lopsided grin communicating just how much he would enjoy that.

"Not today," Snape sighed. "I'm afraid that you are needed elsewhere. I believe that I heard rumors of some Ravenclaws planning a break for tonight, so it is up to you to make sure that doesn't happen."

"But I like to watch!" Carrow protested.

"Perhaps I like to be alone," Snape answered, his voice so silky he almost purred. "Now leave us."

Carrow obeyed, a little afraid of Snape, and left the boy alone with the headmaster. Neville stood there, frozen and defiant. Snape sighed again, did Gryffindors have no sense of self-preservation?

"Go ahead and do your worst," Neville told him, his eyes flashing.

"Tsk, tsk," Snape replied. "Never say that until you know what the worst is."

"You have wanted to all along," Neville challenged. "It must be great now to know that with Dumbledore gone you can do anything you want to me."

"Shut your foolish mouth, child," Snape told him with icy assurance. "You are simply making it worse on yourself."

"Worse?" Neville laughed in spite of himself. "How could this possibly get worse?"

"You have no idea, do you?" Snape asked him harshly. "What do you think happens in this place when you are either deemed as too much hassle or no longer of value?"

Neville faltered a bit, and then rallied. "I will not submit," he told Snape firmly.

"But what about those mudbloods you're protecting?" Snape pressed. "What about the ones that have no powerful or influential families to make sure they don't get the crucio? Are you ready to defy me and risk them? Are you sure I wouldn't fetch a few innocent first years and torture them in front of you?"

Snape saw Neville falter, and realized that he was getting through. The boy had to understand the reality of the situation.

"I am going to cane you, Mr. Longbottom," he told him carefully, and let that statement hang in the air.

Neville paled, but nodded. He knew it would be something like this, and at least this sounded better than some of the things the Carrows did. And at least it was him, and not bringing in any of the younger kids.

"Bend over the desk," Snape ordered him in a voice that brooked no opposition. "You will hold position and not rise until I tell you to or you will find yourself in a body-bind."

"Yes, sir," Neville answered, becoming even more pale. He approached the desk with dismay, and gulped in fear. How bad was this going to be?

Snape flicked his wand, clearing off his desk and gesturing for Neville to bend over. Neville did, resting his palms on the desk. Snape, in an official and business-like way quickly fetched the cane from the cupboard in the corner of his office. The official Hogwarts cane was something of an artifact for the school, but had hardly been used during Dumbledore's tenure. Snape had felt the cane himself a few times, he remembered with chagrin. And now he had to do this violence to Neville.

Snape really had no choice. If he did not punish the boy physically the Carrows would notice, and it would look badly for him with Voldemort. It was likely they would check Neville for marks or check his mind to see what happened. It was not worth his position as spy and protector of children at Hogwarts to save the boy's backside. And there was also a sense of wartime justice - if the boy was going to be in this fight, he had to know the stakes. And he had to learn to be more careful, and if a few stripes helped him with that, then that was pain well spent. And a caning never killed anybody, it just hurt like hell. With younger kids he was often able to spell the marks on the child and confound them enough so they were not prey to legilimency, but Neville was too old for that. Snape would actually have to do it.

Neville trembled slightly as he bent over, trying not to show his fear. In some ways this cold, calculated punishment was by far worse than the angry, passionate Carrows. He could often bluster his way through with the Carrows, but Snape was making him feel his fear.

"Why are you receiving this caning, Mr. Longbottom?"

"For being too valuable to crucio," he answered flippantly. Snape gave an involuntary snort of laughter at that, but quickly schooled his face against frivolity.

"You are quite the comedian for someone in your position," Snape told him severely. "Now, why are you receiving this caning?"

"Because I blocked a spell and shielded a first year from one of the Carrows," Neville admitted heavily.

"That is considered insubordination and troublemaking in this current situation," Snape explained. "You are not allowed to block spells from an adult at Hogwarts. What could you have done differently?"

"Nothing, sir," Neville answered honestly. "I'm not going to say that I would step aside and let some poor Hufflepuff firsties get hit by whatever curse the Carrows want to try out today."

"You must be politic, Mr. Longbottom," Snape told him, hoping he understood what he meant. "Did your sacrifice help the first year students?"

"No," Neville admitted. "They took my wand and then cursed them in front of me, probably worse."

"And you are now facing the cane for your disobedience," Snape told him. "I want you to consider what you could have done instead."

"Nothing, it's what needed to happen," Neville replied firmly. "If you're going to cane me, then get on with it!"

"In good time," Snape replied softly. "Merlin save me from heroic Gryffindors. I expect an essay tomorrow morning of at least ten different things you could have done differently to help those firsties."

"I don't know any!" Neville answered, somewhere between a whine and a complaint.

"How about distraction? Creating a disturbance? Caring for them afterwards? Calling for help?" Snape snapped at him. "Merlin's beard, you're not a first year anymore, Longbottom! Use your head!"

"Yes, sir," Neville replied stoically. "But there is no help any longer at Hogwarts."

"And that belief might be your worst mistake," Snape answered heavily. "Now prepare yourself for your punishment, Longbottom. Six of the best."

Snape lifted the back of Neville's robes, exposing his trouser-clad backside. Commenting no further, he brought the cane against that backside and took aim. The first blow fell smartly, eliciting a yelp from the target.

"One, Mr. Longbottom," Snape told him. "Keep position."

Neville obeyed, and the second stripe made his leg kick involuntarily. Snape counted the stroke for him, and then landed the third. Tears were coursing down the young man's face by this point, but he did not beg. Snape felt the prickling of guilt around the edges of his brain for caning an entirely innocent and noble student, but he pushed that harshly away. This was war, and it did not matter if Neville was innocent and noble. He needed to harden and grow up.

"Five," Snape counted as the next one fell, and Neville's cries had turned more desperate. Snape ruthlessly ignored the pity being conjured in his heart and ended with one last stripe across the upper thighs.

"Six," he announced dispassionately. "Your punishment is complete, Mr. Longbottom."

Snape handed Neville a tissue as he shamefacedly tried to stop that embarrassing hitching in his breathing.

"There's no shame in it," Snape told him calmly. "It's quite a painful punishment. Intended to make its target think twice about his actions."

"Yes, sir," Neville agreed, blowing his nose. "Have you had it before, sir?"

Neville didn't know what could have prompted him to ask the headmaster a question like that, and for a moment the room froze with the audacity of his question. Neville blushed, and half expected himself over that desk for another six. What was he thinking?

"Indeed, Mr. Longbottom, I have," Snape answered after a moment of consideration. "Though I do not know why I would tell you this. But yes, when I was a student the cane was far more commonly applied."

"What did you do, sir?"

"That is definitely none of your business," Snape told the boy, eyeing him carefully, but with no malice. "But I will warn you that I think you will be in my office and bent over that desk again if you do not find a way to not attract attention to yourself. I do not think I have to warn you that the cane will be my most likely means of correcting you."

"I understand, sir," Neville answered sadly. "I just don't know what kind of world we are in."

"It is the kind of world where the strong survive," Snape told him harshly. "If you are to survive you must remain strong. And your strength will be needed."

"Will it?" Neville asked, his voice keening a little. "How could one person, especially one like me, make that much of a difference?"

"That remains to be seen," Snape told him, his expression unreadable. In truth, he felt sympathy for the boy, he was in a hard place that was getting harder by the day. "But I am hoping that one person can make a difference. Perhaps even a large one."

Snape caught himself, and didn't say anything further. He had to have plausible deniability if anybody ever extracted memories from Longbottom and gave them to Voldemort. He had to be careful. This relationship he was going to have to form with Neville Bloody Longbottom was going to have to be very careful.