Chapter 5

Laughter is the Best Medicine

"Bloody hell!" Ron exclaimed as he climbed through the entrance to the common room. "That woman is mental!"

"Who is, Ron?" Neville asked. He and Harry had spent the past half-hour diligently working on organising a list of additional healing plants for Snape, since their next 'detention' was scheduled for later that evening.

"Trelawney, of course!" He threw his bag on the floor beside Harry and started pacing. "First she partners me with Lavender, of all people. Then she gets all excited about my predictions—which, by the way, Harry and I completely made up last night--and praises my 'inner eye.' Then, since my predictions are so good, she makes me try to predict something right there. In front of everyone! Seems she forgot she told that cow, Umbridge, last year that you can't just see on command." He whirled around at the sound of laughter coming from behind him. "You better stop laughing, Harry! You know she wanted me to predict your 'tragic and untimely death' again."

"You'd think she'd give up on that, since I'm not taking Divination anymore," Harry said, shaking his head.

"You'd think." Ron stopped pacing and shrugged apologetically. "Suppose you're still her favourite, though."

"Lucky me."

"So, I'm assuming you didn't predict Harry's death—"

"Don't even joke about that, Neville," Ron said, flinging himself into a chair across from Neville and Harry.

"Sorry, Ron. What did you predict, then?" Neville asked curiously.

"," Ron answered hastily, blushing.

Harry exchanged a glance with Neville and laughed, "Right, mate. That's why your face matches your hair. Come on, Ron, you can tell us. Can't he, Neville?"

"Of course, Harry. We would never laugh at you, Ron." Neville said, grinning broadly.

"It's not important," Ron stammered.

"But, Ron, we want to know," Harry wheedled.

"Yeah, Ron, it must've been good, since you're so reluctant to tell us."

"Ron, Ron, Ron. You know you can trust us. Besides," Harry said with a wink at Neville, "we could always ask Lavender what you predicted."

"All right, all right!" Ron shouted. He looked at his two friends and mumbled, "I said that oneofmyfriendswouldbekissedthisweek."

Neville looked at Harry, whose mouth was hanging open in astonishment, then back at Ron. "You said what?" he asked.

Ron sighed. "I said that one of my friends would be kissed this week," he repeated.

"Any idea which friend that might be?" Harry asked slyly.

"Herm— Wha-what? Uh, no! I mean.... No!"

"Are you certain, Ron?"

"Yes, I'm positive!" Ron said, as he ran his hand through his hair. "I just couldn't think of anything else, and she wasn't going to let me go until I said something, and it just popped into my mind, and I said it before I thought about it. Stupid, stupid, stupid."

"What did Trelawney say?" Neville asked.

"Not much, really. Just seemed disappointed because I didn't predict that Harry was going to die. The rest of the class, though...." He shook his head. "Can someone please explain to me why girls squeal like that when you talk about snogging?"

"You're asking us?" Neville said. "Don't know that you could find two blokes who know less about women."

"Hey, I resent that!" Harry said.

"Do you deny it?" Neville asked. "Or is there something you haven't told us? Some vast experience you have with girls, perhaps?"

Harry shifted uncomfortably in his chair. "Er...well, no, of course not. I have been kissed, though, which is more than you lot can say."

"I've been kissed," Ron said defensively.

"Your sister doesn't count, Ron," Neville said, chuckling.

"It wasn't my sister," Ron retorted.

Harry looked mischievously at him and said, "Hermione doesn't count either."

"I didn't say anything about Hermione! I'm not talking about her."

Neville and Harry looked at each other knowingly. "Of course you're not, Ron," Harry said.

Neville and Harry watched Ron struggle to regain his composure before he attempted to ask nonchalantly, "Anyway, why wouldn't Hermione count? Just for curiosity's sake, of course."

Neville and Harry smirked at each other. "Of course. Curiosity's sake," Neville said. "No other reason at all you'd be talking about her."

"Wha-what do you mean?" Ron stuttered. "I told you! We're not talking about Hermione."

"Who's not talking about Hermione, Ron?" Ginny asked as she and Hermione entered the common room and started walking toward the boys. "I thought I heard you say her name. Didn't you hear your name, Hermione?"

Ron raked his hand through his hair again and muttered under his breath. Neville could just make out some of what he was saying, "...bloody...stupid...inner eye, my foot...mental, I tell you...."

Ginny raised her eyebrow and looked at Harry and Neville. "What's he going on about?"

"Not Hermione," Neville said, struggling to keep a straight face.

"Oh, no, absolutely not. No way it could be Hermione," Harry snickered.

"Would you two mind not talking about me as if I weren't here?" Hermione said peevishly before she turned her attention to Ron and asked in a concerned voice, "Ron, what's the matter? You look flushed."

All it took was one good look at each other, and Neville and Harry lost the battle against the laughter that had been bubbling up inside of them. Harry laughed so hard that he almost fell off his chair and onto the common room floor, but he caught himself before he hit the ground. Neville, however, wasn't as lucky; he hit the floor with a loud thunk, gasping for breath.

"Yeah, Ron," he wheezed, "you look flushed. What's the matter?"

Ron threw his hands up in disgust. "Some friends you are," he said, before stalking over to the portrait hole and out of the room.

Hermione glared at them and followed Ron, saying, "Now look what you've done! I'm going to go find him. You two had better get a hold of yourselves; you have detention again tonight."

"Oh, Merlin, did you see the look on his face when Hermione walked in?" Harry asked as he tried to catch his breath.

"What about when we got him to tell us what he 'saw'?" Neville asked, still chuckling.

"All right, you two! What's going on here?" Ginny demanded, sending the boys into another fit of laughter.

"Sor-sorry, Ginny," Neville gasped. "Your brother is just so...."

"Thick?" Harry supplied, chuckling.

"Exactly," Neville said. "It's so obvious that he fancies Hermione, but he's so far into denial that he can't even admit it to himself."

"We couldn't help ourselves, Ginny. He just made it so easy; we had to give him a hard time about it," Harry said, wiping the tears from his eyes.

"Oh, Harry," Ginny said quietly. "It's so good to hear you laugh. You should do it more often."

Harry instantly sobered. "I haven't had much to laugh about lately, Ginny."

Neville started to fidget. He really didn't want to intrude on a private moment between Harry and Ginny, especially if she was going to try to get him to open up.

"Well, Neville hasn't either, Harry. I'm glad to see both of you laughing," Ginny said seriously, looking at Neville and then back at Harry. "Look, I know you both are going through a hard time right now, and it doesn't help that you have to spend extra time with Snape, but you need to try to live your life to the fullest."

"But..." Harry said.

"No buts, Harry," Ginny answered sternly. "Sirius wouldn't want you to spend your life wallowing in self-pity, you know that. And Neville, your grandmother--your parents--they wouldn't either. You don't honour them by feeling sorry for yourself. You honour them by living your life."

"It's not that easy, Ginny," Harry said. "I can't just turn off the memories."

"No, we can't. But she's right," Neville said. "Gran wouldn't want me moping around. She'd want me doing everything I could to learn more and get ready to fight. And Mum and Dad would want me to have fun."

"See, Harry? That's the spirit, Neville!" Ginny said. "Why don't you two gentlemen walk me to dinner, and you can tell me what was so funny."

"I'm not very hung—" Harry broke off at Ginny's glare. "Oh, all right. It was pretty funny." Ginny linked each of her arms through one of the boys and they headed toward the portrait hole.

"Yeah," Neville said. "I thought Ron was going to kill us when we started—"

Neville and Harry stumbled wearily into the common room. Snape had been relentless in his lessons that night. In the three hours they were in the dungeons, Snape informed them that according to Madam Pomfrey, their potion from their previous detention worked perfectly, much to his consternation. Then he had them brew a second, more powerful (and therefore more difficult) healing draught; plan the cultivation of the additional plants Neville and Professor Sprout had recommended for the healing garden; start a batch of Veritaserum; debate the most effective way to use Polyjuice Potion; and discuss the basics of Death Eater organisation. By the time the night was through, Neville felt like he had been through the wringer, and Harry looked just as bad.

"Blimey, my head hurts," Harry moaned. "Snape is a sadist. He tried to cram far too much information in there in far too short a time."

"But it was interesting, wasn't it?" Neville replied. "I never knew that Veritaserum was so difficult to make."

"I didn't either," Harry admitted. "I guess I should have, because last year Snape told Umbridge," he shuddered at the mention of her name, "that it would take him a month to brew up a new batch."

"Oh, that's right. When we were all up in her off—" Neville broke off at the look on Harry's face. Stupid, stupid, stupid, he berated himself. Why'd you have to go and bring up that night? Why not just come right on out there and say it—'when we were in her office, before we went to the Department of Mysteries and your godfather died.' Like he doesn't remember all those details. Idiot!

"Sorry, Harry," he mumbled in apology. "I didn't mean to—"

"It's okay, Neville," Harry said wearily. "I brought it up, after all."

"Er, right," Neville answered, and cast about trying to come up with a new topic.

"Listen, Neville, I'm going to bed. I'm knackered," Harry said. "I'll see you in the morning."

"All right, Harry. 'Night."

Damn, Neville thought to himself. What did you go and do that for, Longbottom? Couldn't leave well enough alone, could you? Oh, no; you have to go and make him feel worse. Great. Just great. He sighed and trudged up the stairs, following Harry to bed.

After breakfast the next morning, Neville and the rest of the Gryffindors headed off to their Advanced Charms lesson. They filed into the classroom and went to their seats.

"All right, class," Professor Flitwick said. "Professor Andrews and I have been talking, and we feel like it would be to your advantage if we both taught you charms that can be useful for defence. There may be some overlap in the charms and spells taught, but I think you'll see that we both have different ideas about how they can be used. Today, we'll be learning spells that can crush or destroy things. Professor Andrews tells me that you already know Reducto, is that correct?"

"Yes, Professor," the class murmured. They had been practicing that particular spell in Professor Andrew's lesson for the past week.

"Very good. Mr. Longbottom, would you mind coming up and demonstrating for me? Professor Andrews was very impressed with your ability with this particular spell."

Neville blushed, but pushed himself out of his seat and went to the front of the classroom where Flitwick had conjured up a large brick wall.

Neville nervously cleared his throat and wiped his sweaty palms off on his robes before grasping his wand tightly. He pointed his wand at the wall and said clearly, "Reducto!" There was a loud crashing noise as a large hole appeared in the wall, and a pile of bricks appeared on the back side of the hole.

"Excellent. Two points for Gryffindor. Go ahead and take your seat, Mr. Longbottom," Professor Flitwick said, and Neville gratefully sat down, glad to be out of the centre of attention. "The Reductor Curse was originally invented to help with home repair and remodelling. It's very useful for doing large demolition work. There's another charm, also used in home remodelling and demolition. Does anyone know what it is?"

After a few moments of silence, he said, "I'm not surprised that no one knows. It's fairly obscure, unless you deal with demolition or construction charms regularly. The wizards who do this kind of work for a living are quite familiar with it, as are curse breakers. The spell is Contundo." Flitwick looked at the class to gauge their reactions before continuing, "Contundo is a crushing spell. In construction—and curse breaking, for that matter—it's typically used after Reducto to crush the larger pieces so they're easier to move. All right, let's try it. Everyone repeat after me, please. Contundo."

The class repeated the incantation until Professor Flitwick felt that they had the pronunciation correct. "Very good. Now, you need to learn the wand movements. Everyone watch me, please. Your wand will go to the left," he demonstrated slowly as he spoke. "Then, following the same path, go back to the right, and flick the wand upwards before pointing at the object you are trying to destroy. Everybody practice the wand motion, please."

Flitwick walked around the room, checking everyone's wand movements. Neville concentrated to make sure he got the pattern correct. Professor Flitwick had told him earlier that he wasn't bad at Charms; he just lacked self-confidence and needed practice. If practice was what he needed, then he'd do his best to get in as much as he could.

"No, no, Mr. Finnigan," Flitwick corrected. "Left, right, up, point. You'll have flowers sprouting from your desk before you can blink if you do it that way. Let me see it again. There you go. That's right. Mr. Longbottom, how are you doing?"

"All right, Professor."

"Let me see, please."

Neville slowly moved his wand in the pattern.

"Excellent, Mr. Longbottom." He turned to the rest of the class. "Now, I would like you to try the charm. Everyone needs to pick a brick from the pile to practice on. Remember, the incantation is Contundo. Begin."

Neville got his brick and brought it over to his desk, determined to master the spell. His first attempt didn't go so well. His aim was off a little, and he only managed to crumble the corner of the brick. He gave a sigh of relief that the brick was the only thing damaged until he noticed that the corner of the desk was missing, and there was a large hole in the floor. He looked around nervously to check that no one had seen his mistake.

He concentrated on the brick again, going over the incantation and wand movements in his mind one last time before saying, "Contun—"

Before he could finish the incantation, the brick—and the desk it was sitting on— crumbled into tiny pieces. White dust floated in the air and slowly settled on Neville's head and shoulders, turning his hair and robes a sickly grey.

"Oi! Watch what you're doing, Seamus!" Neville shouted.

"Sorry, Neville," Seamus called sheepishly. "Here, let me see if I can fix that."

"Uh, no, Seamus," Neville answered hastily. "That's okay. Don't worry about it. Really. Professor Flitwick can take care of it,"

"Oh, my. What's happened here?" Professor Flitwick said as he made his way to Neville's desk. "Mr. Longbottom, did you do this?"

"No, sir, it wasn't Neville," Seamus said sheepishly. "It was me. I overshot my brick a little."

"Well, then, Mr. Longbottom, why don't you share a desk with Mr. Potter for the rest of the class period while Mr. Finnigan and I clean up this mess. Go get another brick from the pile. There you go."

Neville walked over to the pile and picked out another brick before making his way over to Harry's desk, white powder drifting from his hair and clothing with every step he took. He made certain he left Seamus a wide berth in the process—he had no desire to be demolished like his desk.

"Neville, you're going grey," Harry exclaimed when Neville arrived at his desk. "What happened? I heard an explosion, and when I looked over there, your desk was in a million pieces and there was dust floating everywhere."

"Seamus," Neville replied simply. "He missed his brick and hit mine instead."

"Oh. The charm worked for him, then?"

"Well, except for the fact that his aim was off, and he destroyed my desk in the process," Neville said sarcastically, brushing ineffectively at the powder on his shoulders. "Glad I had my bag under the desk instead of on top of it. I was just getting ready to try the spell and everything just exploded in my face."

"You want to try now, Neville?" Harry asked. "I think I've just about got it."

"Yeah, let me give it a go," Neville said, grasping his wand. He thought about the incantation and wand movement one last time before saying, "Contundo!" Again, Neville's aim was slightly off, but this time he managed to crush half of the brick, and only knocked a small hole in the desk.

"Not bad, Neville," Harry said. "You almost got it. You just need to adjust your aim a little bit."

"Harry, you know that aiming has never been my strong suit. I just can't ever seem to get it right," Neville replied.

"Here," Harry said, "try this. Think about where you need to hit the brick to get it to break apart the best."

"Okay, got it—should be in the middle, right?"

"Right. Think about a target right in the middle of the brick. Now imagine a beam of light going from the end of your wand to the centre of that target." He paused and thought a moment before continuing. "No...wait. I have a better idea. Try this instead. Producto Facula."

Neville was amazed to see a thin beam of yellow light come from the tip of Harry's wand and land wherever Harry pointed it. "Use the beam of light to show you where you should aim," Harry said. "See, like this," and he pointed to the centre of Neville's brick, before shouting, "Contundo!" The brick shattered, leaving the desk intact.

"Wicked," Neville said quietly. "Where'd you learn that?"

"Taught it to myself this summer," Harry said, looking embarrassed. "I was bored, so I did a lot of extra reading. Here, you try it. It's Producto Facula."

Neville squared his shoulders determinedly and said, "Producto Facula," and a beam of yellow light shot from his wand and landed on the desk.

"Excellent, Neville! Let me go get you another brick, and you can try the other spell." Harry ran to the front of the room and grabbed some more bricks, before rushing back to his desk. "Here you go, Neville. Try again."

Neville pointed the beam of light at the centre of his brick, concentrating on its position before saying, "Contundo." Like Harry's, Neville's brick shattered, and nothing else was damaged.

"I did it," Neville gasped in shock. "Harry, I did it!"

"I knew you could, Neville," Harry said, placing another brick on the desk. "Here, why don't you try again?"

Neville nodded his head in agreement and screwed up his face in concentration, saying, "Producto Facula." Once the beam of light was centred on the brick, he memorised the position and shouted, "Contundo!" Again, the brick shattered, leaving the desk intact.

"Great, Neville. Now why don't you try to do the same thing, but faster? Like this," Harry said as he placed another brick on the desk. He took aim and rapidly said, "Producto Facula. Contundo!" watching as the brick crumbled to dust.

"Wow," Neville said. "That was...."

"Excellent, Mr. Potter," Professor Flitwick broke in. "And you, too, Mr. Longbottom. Excellent teamwork, the both of you. Five points to Gryffindor."

"Thank you, Professor," Neville said, "but it was really Harry who...."

"Mr. Longbottom, I've been watching you the whole time. While it's true that Mr. Potter showed you the light charm, you managed to perform it nearly perfectly on your first try. That's a remarkable achievement, and you've destroyed your last two bricks without Mr. Potter's help. Why don't you try again? Use more than one brick this time and see how you do."

"Yes, sir," Neville said to Professor Flitwick before turning to Harry. "Want to give it a try, Harry? I'd like to see if I can do more than one brick."

"Sure, why not?" Harry said. "You want to go first?"

"I...sure," Neville responded uncertainly.

"What do you think—three to start out with?" Harry asked as he motioned toward the pile of bricks at the front of the room. At Neville's nod, Harry said, "All right. Three it is, then. I'll be right back."

Neville spent the time Harry used getting the bricks to go over the wand movements and incantations one last time. His eyes widened as Harry stumbled back to the desk, his arms full of bricks.

"Didn't I say three bricks, Harry? Why did you bring..." he paused and gestured wildly, "all those? There must be over twenty there."

"Thought I'd save us some time," Harry said, dropping the bricks on the floor by the desk. "This way we'll have them right here." Harry carefully stacked three bricks into a small pyramid. "Okay, Neville, ready to try?"

"Ready," Neville replied, sounding more confident than he felt. He concentrated carefully, imagining where he wanted the brunt of the spell to land before shouting, "Producto Facula. Contundo!" The top brick crumbled into dust, but the other two remained virtually unharmed.

"Good, Neville," Harry said. "You destroyed that top one, and your timing was faster."

"Yeah, but I didn't get the others," Neville said, his shoulders slumping in defeat.

"Oh, come on, Neville. You didn't really expect to get it on the first try, did you? It takes practice. Try again," Harry said as he replaced the top brick. "Try to hit it a little lower, where the three bricks all touch. See," he said, pointing to the spot he was talking about, "right about here. That way, you'll hit all three at the same time. Otherwise, you'll have to be really strong to get through the top one and still be able to destroy the bottom two."

"Okay." Neville took a deep breath, concentrated on the spot Harry had pointed to, and repeated the incantations. This time, all that was left when the smoke cleared was a pile of dust, which Harry swept off the desk with a wave of his wand.

"Excellent, Neville! That was perfect!" Harry clapped Neville on the back, saying, "I knew you could do it."

Neville blushed from the praise. "Thanks, Harry. But you helped. I couldn't have learned it without you."

Harry rolled his eyes. "Yes, you could, Neville. It might have taken you a bit longer, but you would have figured it out. I just...pushed you in the right direction a bit."

"Well, yeah, but...."

"Don't 'but' me, Neville. You did it. Now do it again." Harry flashed a quick grin, before stacking five bricks in a pyramid on the desk.

"Hey," Neville said weakly. "That's more than...."

"Oh, come on, Neville, you can do it. Just repeat what you just did with the three bricks, and it'll be fine. Hit them right in the middle."

Neville glared at Harry before examining the pile of bricks on his desk. He narrowed his eyes in concentration before trying the spells. To his surprise, all five bricks crumbled into dust on the desk.

He turned to Harry, wide-eyed. "I...I did it. I did it!"

"Great job, Neville."

"Yes, Mr. Longbottom. Excellent job," Professor Flitwick said from behind them.

The boys whirled in shock. "Professor. I'm sorry, we didn't see you there," Harry said.

Flitwick waved his hand dismissively. "It's all right, boys. Class just ended, but you two were concentrating so hard that I wanted to let you finish. Your friends are waiting outside."

"Thank you, Professor," Neville said.

"Oh, Mr. Longbottom? If I might make a suggestion...this room will be available for practice in the evenings. You might want to try to increase the number of bricks you're attempting and the speed with which you destroy them. I'd also suggest increasing the area the bricks take; instead of stacking them in a pyramid, try them in a line or something similar. Eventually, you'll want to eliminate the light charm. You too, Mr. Potter."

"All right, Professor," the boys chorused together while gathering their things. "Thank you."

Flitwick told them to have a good weekend and waved them out of the room, saying, "Remember, you can use this room to practice in if you need it."

The boys walked out the door, talking excitedly about the class before meeting Ron, Hermione and the rest of the Gryffindors in the corridor. As soon as they exited the room, Hermione pounced on them. "Harry!" she exclaimed. "What was that light charm you were doing? Could you teach it to us? Where did you learn it? How does it work? What else can it—"

"Breathe, Hermione," Ron said. "If you want him to answer you, you need to slow down and give him a chance."

She glared at Ron impatiently, before turning back to Harry. "Well, Harry? Are you going to tell me...I mean us?"

"Uh, sure. Could we not do this in the middle of the corridor, though? We have a break before lunch. Let's go to the common room, and I'll tell you, all right?"

Hermione huffed impatiently as they started walking. "Oh, all right. But you have to tell us everything."

Harry rolled his eyes at Neville and said, "All right, Hermione. I'll tell you everything."

"Maybe you could teach us all at the next DA meeting," Seamus said. "The first one went really well, I thought."

"And that's despite the fact that Ron nearly hexed Blaise Zabini when he and Daphne Greengrass walked into the room," Dean added.

"What?" Ron asked defensively. "They're Slytherins. You can't trust them."

"Oh, come on, Ron. Blaise seems like a good enough guy," Harry said. "He knows his hexes, and he listened when I talked. And he didn't make any trouble."

"Yeah, but..." Ron sputtered.

"Honestly, Ron. Harry's the leader, and he gets to decide who's in the DA. And he's right. Blaise did a good job," Hermione said.

"He helped me with that binding curse we were trying to learn," Neville said. "I thought he was pretty nice, for a Slytherin."

"But, a Slytherin?" Dean asked as Ron nodded his head.

Hermione huffed again. "You know the Sorting Hat warned about this the past two years. We need to work together if we're going to fight You-Kn--"

"Say his name, Hermione," Harry interrupted firmly. "We should all say his name." He turned and looked at the rest of the group before stopping at Ron. "You, too, Ron. At least I know that Hermione can say it. You still avoid it like the plague."

"Professor Dumbledore says that fear of a name leads to fear of the thing itself. I...I don't want to be afraid anymore," Neville said determinedly. If it means that I have to say V-Voldemort's name, or work with Slytherins, then I'll do what it takes. Blaise and Daphne helped me, and I can use all the help I can get."

"All right, all right," Ron said, holding his hands up in defeat. "Doesn't mean I have to like it, though."

Harry turned to his friend and said, "Thanks, Ron. Your support means a lot to me." He grinned. "Even if you don't want to give it. You still need to say Voldemort's name, though."

"Yeah, yeah. Give a bloke a chance to get used to the idea, all right?"

Harry clapped Ron on the shoulder and said, "All right, mate. But don't take too long getting used to it. I'm going to make everyone say it next Tuesday at the DA meeting."

Ron, Dean, and Seamus all groaned together at Harry's comment. "He will, too, the git," Ron mumbled good-naturedly under his breath.

Laughing, the group turned the corner that led them to the entrance to Gryffindor Tower, gave the password, and climbed through the portrait hole into the common room.

A/N: The English to Latin Dictionary (catholic dot archives dot nd dot edu/cgi-bin/lookdown dot pl)) is my friend. Contundo means "to crush." Producto means "to bring forward" or "to bring forth light"and Facula is "a little torch."

Again, many thanks to OHGinnyfan and Zahri for their excellent beta-reading skills.

Misting Morning: Thanks so much for the compliment. I hope I live up to your expectations.

Seamusisevil: Thanks for the compliment. I'm also a big Neville fan (as I think you can probably tell). About submitting this to The Sugar Quill—unfortunately, this story doesn't meet their requirements for a first submission (since it's set in the 6th year), and I don't have anything archived there yet. It is archived at PhoenixSong (www dot phoenixsong dot net), though, and I always put chapters up there first (this chapter has actually been up there for the better part of a month; I'm just now getting it up here).