TITLE: A Gryffindor Tried and True
LONGER SUMMARY: Harry Potter dislikes Severus Snape. Severus Snape loathes Harry Potter. No one is more shocked than the Hogwarts Potion Master when Harry takes a potentially fatal spell to save the Death Eater turned Phoenix spy. Harry's sole hope of survival lies with Severus Snape, Hermione Granger, and, of all people, Neville Longbottom.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is my first HP fic. Come June 21, 2003, it will most certainly become an AU fic. (YIPPEE--BOOK FIVE!!!) Something tells me Neville Longbottom has some role to play in JKR's future HP novels. There's a reason why he is a Gryffindor. This is my way of spotlighting the traits that make him worthy of that House.
Minerva McGonnagall wrung her hands and watched members of the staff regather in the faculty common room.
"Any sign of him?"
"Not a one." Rubius Hagrid sighed. The half-giant shook his shaggy head and scratched his right ear. "No one's seen hide nor hair of him since before breakfast. It's like he's done fallen off the face o' the earth!"
"Where in the name of Godric Gryffindor has that boy gotten to?"
It wasn't unusual for Neville Longbottom to stumble into a class as much as ten minutes late. It was, however, most unlike him to miss class entirely. He'd definitely not miss three classes in a row. By the time Professor Sprout reported him absent from Herbology, he'd not been seen by a living soul in over six hours.
With full dark fallen on Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the searchers were at a loss as to where to look next.
"Let's go over the situation again. Maybe we can think of something helpful," Minerva said. No one objected. "The last known sighting was before breakfast this morning. Several Gryffindors report seeing him in the tower, running late as usual. No one recalls seeing him at breakfast. None of the house elves brought him food. He never attended a single class. Basically, no one has seen him since six o'clock this morning."
"We've searched the halls, the library, classrooms, the Quidditch pitch, everywhere," Sprout sighed.
"He's not in hospital wing," Madame Pomfrey, the school mediwitch, reported, "or anywhere close by."
"I searched the grounds," Hagrid said. "Got Fang to sniffin' for his scent. I even trekked a-ways into the Dark Forest. Nothin'."
"Teams of students scoured the school looking for him but found nothing," Madame Hooch, the flying instructor, reported.
The Potions Master, Severus Snape, leaned against the head table and said, "Perhaps he finally decided to give up and go home. It wouldn't surprise me in the least."
"Really, Severus," McGonnagall scolded. "That isn't very helpful."
"Admit it, Minerva. Neville Longbottom is the poorest excuse for a student this school has seen in a thousand years."
"Only because you bully and frighten him into a corner every chance you get," Pomfrey cut back.
"He's a Gryffindor," Snape replied. His voice swam in the Potions Master's trademark sarcasm. "Surely a Gryffindor should be able to handle a few harsh words."
"Let's not argue amongst ourselves," McGonnagall said. "It serves no purpose and pulls us away from our goal, which first and foremost is to find a missing student."
Pomfrey said, "The most we can do is make another search of the grounds and pray we've missed something."
"Agreed." McGonnagall stiffened her shoulders. "If we haven't found him by nine tonight, we must send an owl to London, to the Headmaster. Albus will need to know."
A half-smile crossed Snape's face. "And his grandmother."
Minerva cringed, well envisioning the scene such a message would create. "Yes."
The head of Gryffindor House opened the door out of the faculty common room. A sea of students waited in the corridor. In the van stood Longbottom's yearmates, foremost among them Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, and Seamus Finnigan.
Harry pounced on his Head of House the instant she appeared in the doorway. "Anything, Professor?"
"Nothing yet. All of you, return to your dormitories. We will continue the search."
"Please," Hermione asked, "can't we help?"
"And risk losing more of you in the dark?" Snape crooned. "That would certainly improve the situation."
"No, Ms. Granger," Professor McGonnagall said. "We thank you for the offer, but the best thing you can do is return to your rooms."
With clear reluctance the one hundred or so students, a mix of Gryffindors, Ravenclaws, and Hufflepuffs, split into groups, all headed toward their home towers.
"Oh, and Mr. Potter." Harry turned back at the Potions Master's soft call. The mass of students continued on until only Harry, Ron, and Hermione remained. "I expect there to be absolutely no forays into the school, say, by way of an invisibility cloak?"
Harry slumped, having planned just such a thing. "No, sir."
Severus Snape made a final pass through the greenhouse. Between the light of a full moon that streamed through the glass ceiling and the glow from his wand tip, he could see into every shadowed corner of the room.
He stared out
through the glass walls and across the Hogwarts grounds. Lights flickered in
every tower and around every entrance, giving the school a deceptively peaceful
"Where are you, boy?" he muttered to himself.
Though he would admit nothing even under threat of torture, Severus Snape was worried. However much he might lack in patience, he could not deny some form of connection to Neville Longbottom. He'd been part of the group that had arrived too late to rescue the boy's parents. Torture had ripped their sanity away, leaving them little more than gibbering shells.
Far away, stone scraped against stone. Severus spun around, searching for the source of the noise. A back wall, covered in climbing vines, trembled. Plants bulged forward and down. Something huge landed on the floor directly at his feet.
Snape stared down at the writhing mass of plants. He raised his wand, ready with a dozen spells of defense.
"Ow! Ow ow ow!"
Snape stepped back, surprised enough to gasp, "Longbottom?"
Severus grabbed a handful of vine and yanked it away. Cocooned in greenery, visible in the light from moon and wand, lay Neville Longbottom.
Grass stains and clumps of dirt soiled his clothing, from robes to sweater to trousers. Fragments of vine wrapped his right boot. Rich, black soil coated his pants from knees to ankle. Angry scratches covered his face and hands. His cloak was little more than ribboned tatters across his shoulders. A pale blue, sword-shaped flower peeked from beneath his collar.
"Ow-" Neville's eyes tracked from Snape's boots, up his legs, all the way to his scowling, shadowed face. "Oooooh. No."
Snape pulled the teen to his feet. He shook him by the shoulder and demanded, "Where have you been, boy! Do you know you've had the entire school out looking for you since midday?"
"Well? Speak up!"
Snape blinked in disbelief. "LOST? Five years you've been a student here, and you 'got lost'?"
Neville cringed away, looking close to tears. With a final snarl, Snape pushed the boy toward the exit. The Potions Master aimed his wand at his throat and muttered a spell. His voice projected to every corner of the school.
"I found him. Unhurt. It seems our wayward fifth-year 'got lost.'"
Neville Longbottom trudged back to his tower dorm. Snickers and mockery from his fellow students, especially when he passed a Slytherin, rang in his ears. His appearance in the Gryffindor common room raised a shout from every student gathered there. Concerned classmates, all demanding to know where he'd been all day, surrounded him. They would have hounded him for an answer had Hermione Granger not clucked and demanded that they give him time to clean up before they beat the answers out of him.
Face aflame with embarrassment, Neville climbed the stairs to the boy's dormitory. There, he quickly shed his ruined clothes, treated the stinging cuts and scrapes with a salve Madame Pomfrey made for him (he was forever hurting this or that), and redressed.
He fingered the dozen jagged rips in his Gryffindor robe--Gran is going to kill me for this. She'll send a Howler, just watch.
As he had every day since the Sorting Hat yelled "Gryffindor!" over his head, Neville Longbottom wondered why? He had none of the characteristics typical of someone in the House most noted for bravery and courage. Who, or what, was he to be a part of the same House as the likes of brave Harry Potter, brilliant Hermione Granger, and loyal Ron Weasley? The very thought of leaving the ground on a broom terrified him. He cringed every time a teacher called on him. He stuttered and stammered in every class except Herbology.
So he could repot a plant or tell a weed from an herb--how brave was that?
And worst of all, why had he tumbled out of the tunnel to land at the feet of the one professor in all of Hogwarts who reveled at the chance to chastise him and detract points from Gryffindor? Why couldn't it have been Sprout, McGonnagall, or even Dumbledore, anyone but Snape? No, in typical Longbottom fashion, he had ended his adventure in the worse way possible.
Still . . . his mind roamed back over the events of the day. He had some right to be proud of what he'd accomplished, even though he was too embarrassed to tell the tale to anyone. He'd made it through the maze, survived the room, and found the exit, all by himself.
Neville reached beneath his bed and pulled out a wooden box as long as his forearm and a foot deep. A flick of his wand and a whispered spell released the lock and lifted the lid. Within he kept his most treasured mementos, mostly photos and letters, including his Hogwarts acceptance letter and his Gran's note of grudging praise for the points he'd won on the last day of his first year--the points that had gained Gryffindor the coveted House Cup.
He removed a large monogrammed handkerchief from his wardrobe and pressed it flat on the bed. He pried the remnants of leaves, vines, flowers, and earth from his clothing and placed each one neatly on the square of cloth. Neville stared at the specimens a moment before rolling the cloth into a smart, creaseless linen tube.
The handkerchief, with the elaborately swirling scarlet and gold "L" on top, went into the box. He closed the lid and returned the box to its place beneath the bed. He would never tell anyone what he'd done. At least he had something to remember his adventure by.