Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter, nor any of the associated characters or places. All of that stuff belongs to the talented JK Rowling.

A/N: I got this idea from reading a few other fanfics in which the POVs of other characters are used to look in at what 'The Golden Trio' is. Hopefully, I didn't subconsciously steal anything from anyone. I don't think I did, but I haven't read everything out there I can't be perfectly certain. Thanks for your interest, though.

Title: The Promise

When I wake up, I see Harry is back in his bed, sleeping as if he hasn't been gone for two weeks. Ron is sitting on the edge of Harry's bed, watching his friend sleep, and the look of love, almost fatherly love, is something I cannot describe.

My heart clenches a little at the sight. We haven't heard anything about Harry since he disappeared. Just that 'Voldemort had him for a while,' and that they had recovered him eventually. Ron and Hermione were absent from classes almost all of the past two weeks. We know they were in the infirmary almost all of the time, and I can imagine them quite easily sitting beside Harry's bed, just waiting for him to wake up.

Ron hasn't noticed that I am awake yet. He is gazing down at his friend, and I watch him reach a hand out to smooth back Harry's dark hair. In the dim light I can't tell if it is a shadow or a thick scar on Harry's cheek. Neither matters. Harry will pretend it doesn't exist, will go on as usual.

I decide it's time to announce my presence. "Is he okay?" I whisper. Ron looks up, eyes bloodshot and tired.

"He's Harry," Ron tells me, voice scratchy. From crying, I suppose. "He'll be all right. Just not now."

"Are you all right?" I ask. No one ever asks that, but I feel I must. No one ever asks if I am all right—except for Harry, that is—and I know it bothers me. Ron is a mess, and I know Hermione will be as well.

Ron looks at me with haunted eyes. "Am I all right?" he echoes, then laughs once, a weak and tortured sound. "I have to stand by and watch my best friend be torn apart, Neville. I'm nothing in this war, only Harry is. Everything's about Harry..."

Before, before Voldemort made Harry his only goal, that would have been envy in Ron's voice. But now it is just sorrow for a friend that has to go through so much. "You're there for him," I say softly. "That's all you can do."

"It isn't. I can do more. I will do more," Ron says resolutely. He looks up and smiles half-heartedly. "Did you know—Dumbledore's decided that Harry will have to be escorted by a professor at all times. And he's not even allowed to be in a bathroom alone. Hogwarts is no longer safe for him. Harry's connection to Voldemort lets that bastard right through to him." Ron turns to look down at his sleeping friend once more. "He has nothing left, Neville. Nothing."

"He has you and Hermione," I say stoutly. This is a fact that I know for certain. "That's all he wants."

Ron doesn't seem to hear me. He is still staring down at Harry. "The nightmares will start up again in a bit," he says softly. "I put up silencing charms so he doesn't wake anyone else up."

I realize that Ron hasn't slept at all. "You should sleep," I say. "I can watch him for a bit, Ron."

"No!" Ron says quickly. I know I am not part of the 'Golden Trio,' but I am closer than Seamus or Dean. But the trio is just that. A trio. No more. Ron shifts a little, still watching Harry sleep. "No, that's my job. I'll sleep later, when Harry's in his classes. I don't need to go to class anyway."

"Why don't you?" I ask, curious. Ron eyes me sadly.

"Harry's never going to graduate from Hogwarts, Neville," he says softly, tears in his throat. "He knows it. I know it, Hermione knows it. Even Dumbledore knows it, even if he refused to admit it. He's like Harry's grandfather or something—he refuses to see that anything bad will claim his only grandson... Harry probably won't make it through seventh year. What's the point in me going to class, worrying about my future, when my best friend, my brother, will never have one?"

"You don't think—"

"Ask Harry some time," Ron says. "Ask him what he wants to be when he grows up," Ron instructs, voice sharp and bitter. "He won't understand what you mean."

I'm not sure how to respond to that. Is Harry suicidal, or just resigned? He's wiser than Dumbledore even if he's just sixteen, and I don't doubt that he knows how this will all end. He sees things differently than I do, than even Ron and Hermione do, no matter how much they try. I think back to some of Dean's theories about Harry. Perhaps Ron will answer them for me. It's worth a try, I tell myself. I want to be involved, I want to try to help. At the very least, I want to try to understand.

I'm just about to ask something when Harry stirs. His face twists with pain as his hands clench. Ron is in motion almost before it happens, whispering soothing words and clasping Harry's hands with his own. He's like a father, or like how I remember my favorite uncle when I woke up from a nightmare. But my nightmares were about imaginary boogey men and angry professors. Only very rarely do I have a nightmare about my parents...and those are based on stories about them. I was not there when they were tortured into insanity.

Harry's nightmares are always about torture and death. And his are not imaginary. They're real. Ron's said before, when we've woken up to Harry throwing up on the floor, having shoved himself out of the silencing spells around his bed, that Harry sees things that Voldemort does, that he has done. And he sees other things, like Cedric's death and his own tortures.

Perhaps he is suicidal. I know I would be.

Harry tosses a little. I hear him moan—the silencing spells are down now, I know, or else I wouldn't have been able to hear Ron—and then he is silent again. He's biting his lip so tightly it's going to bleed. But then Ron puts a hand on Harry's forehead and the pale teen relaxes again, releasing his lip easily. Ron looks relieved.

Harry suddenly convulses, a shiver running up from his feet through the rest of his body. It happens again, and I realize Ron isn't doing anything to try to stop it. "What is that?" I ask, alarmed.

"Crucio, or perhaps he's still having muscle spasms," Ron says with a shrug. "He feels the spells—Voldemort is working hard to make sure that he will almost always feel them—but after he was taken two weeks ago he's had some muscle problems. You'll see." Harry shudders again, and there's a cold wrap of ice inside of me. The spasms are inhuman, they scream of agonizing pain even if the dark-haired teen does not.

It is too much like my parents, too much like what I imagine it to have looked like, them convulsing on the floor, screaming their pain to the world...until they lost their minds. Perhaps Harry is losing his mind...

"Does he know that you keep watch over him?" I ask. Anything to keep from seeing those spasms. From hearing Harry's soft grunts and groans of pain.

"I always pretend I just woke up, or I slip into bed before morning," Ron says. "He'd feel guilty if he knew."

"Where's Hermione?" I ask. I've been wondering why she's not here as well. Dumbledore gave her access to the boy's dorm, for her to be with Ron and Harry. He's known for some time now that without Ron and Hermione, Harry will just crumble up and blow away. Or perhaps Ron and Hermione would blow away with Harry...I'm not really sure any more.

"Asleep," Ron says. "She hasn't slept in days, and I got Poppy to give her a sleeping potion. She'll never forgive me; she'll just do it to me sometime."

"You should sleep," I say. Harry's stilled again, sweat on his forehead but little else seeming to be wrong. "It isn't healthy to skip it."

"You think being tortured and alone is healthy?" Ron asked, voice raised a little. He's getting very emotional now. "Harry never had anyone to comfort him after nightmares, Neville. He's never had anything."

Maybe Dean was right...but I needed to know. "Was—was Harry abused?" I ask. I feel stupid, and Ron looks a little angry. I think perhaps I should have kept my stupid mouth shut, but then Ron's face breaks into an expression of pure sorrow.

"I don't know," he admits finally. I am the only one he would ever admit that to, I think. I am close enough, trustworthy enough, to confide in. I cherish the position and what I can do with it.

"He would never admit it, but I think he was. If he ever knew anyone thought that..." He didn't need to finish that thought. I know Harry would be devastated, ashamed, embarrassed, if he thought people looked on him with pity. Not that some didn't already, but he couldn't take if all he saw was sympathy. He takes the envy and hate so much better. Like that is his lot in life. Like he thinks he doesn't deserve any better.

We sit in silence, each in our own thoughts. I think perhaps of going back to sleep, of leaving Ron to his vigil, when Harry suddenly cries out and sits up. "Mother?" he said. I almost cry at that one word. My mother was not there for me. But at least I had my grandmother. She loves me. I know that. Harry says that one word with such fear and longing that it's all I can do to keep from going to him.

Ron is already there, leaning down to Harry. "Shh, shh," he says. "It's Ron, Harry."

I watch as Harry blinks a few times—the half-smile on his face fading away as he realizes no mother will ever come for him, just like every other time. No mother will ever come, not until he has died, or, more likely, been murdered. "Ron." Harry rubs his eyes, swallowing a few times. When he speaks again his voice is flat but strong once more. "Do you know where my glasses are?" he asks.

"Here, Harry," Ron says. I watch him carefully hand the pair of wire-frame glasses to his friend, who slips them on with one hand. He sits up further—there is no shadow on his cheek, just a deep and probably painful scar.

"Neville," Harry says suddenly. "I'm sorry if I woke you up."

"You didn't," I say, not too quickly I hope. I don't want him to know I'm lying, but his eyes tell me he's known all along. Those deep green eyes are staring at me...and they're not sparkling anymore, like when he was just a little eleven year old. They're old and dark and weary now, having seen too much blood and death.

Once, I looked into Dumbledore's eyes, when he came to the sixth year boy's dorm just the night of the welcome feast. Ron and Harry were both absent. It was just me, Seamus, and Dean. And he told us what to expect this year, asked us if we would like a separate dorm, because this one would not be peaceful, not with two war veterans, one a tortured hero, living in it. His eyes had not twinkled then, like Harry's did not twinkle now.

I think I understand why Dumbledore's eyes twinkle now. He has had a long life, full of loves and dreams and goals that he has all experienced. Harry's used to shine like that, when he was younger, before Voldemort rose. When he had his own loves and dreams and goals, all just waiting for him to be ready to face them. But Harry knows he will never accomplish any of those goals. Dumbledore already has—he will be satisfied and content the day he dies, but Harry...Harry will be only because he has given up his dreams. And now his eyes will never twinkle again.

Dumbledore's eyes didn't shine that evening with the wisdom and love that I always expect to see. As he spoke to us, his voice was tired and grave. Harry had already been taken twice that summer, and was not at the welcome feast because he was in the infirmary, recovering. Voldemort was toying with Harry, half hoping the boy would turn to him or break for him, but seeming to know already that that would never happen. So he was just having fun, plucking Harry out of Dumbledore's hands and tearing him apart before sending him back to heal before taking him again.

Dumbledore's eyes held only worry and fear, for the boy he loved more than any other. I knew Dumbledore loved Harry, loved to see him happy and see him laugh. He gave points generously just to make Harry laugh—everyone knows that. Except Harry, who has never had any idea that his Headmaster loves him that much. That probably helps explain why Snape is so bitter towards Harry—the boy never seems to realize it when someone does something for him. He would never believe anyone would do anything for him. The idea's ludicrous to him.

Dumbledore is broken by Harry's pain. His eyes still twinkle, but I think it is forced. He has had his dreams, his fulfilling life, but he'd trade it all in an instant for Harry. He'd do anything for Harry now, and that's why he came to us. He did not want us to hurt his surrogate grandchild. He refuses to see Harry suffer any more than he has to, and he came to us to plead for our understanding.

I've never been so afraid as I was that evening, watching those tired blue eyes, so much like the pair of tired green ones that now look upon me. I knew then that this was not a war we could really win. Voldemort would be killed, would be stopped, but Dumbledore isn't going to win. Neither is Harry.

They're so alike...perhaps they are related...not by blood, but by pain and sorrow.

I realize I've been quiet for quite some time. "I was just talking with Ron," I say quickly.

"Both of you should be sleeping," Harry scolds. His voice has emotion, his face as well, but his eyes, his green, green eyes, are dead. "Classes tomorrow."

"Doesn't matter," Ron grouses.

"It does," Harry argues. "Someday you're going to do something great, Ron. You promised me. Be Minister or something, and make everything right. And Hermione'll right beside you, holding your hand...or maybe even running against you." He smiles at his own feeble joke, and Ron blinks, looking surprised. He doesn't seem to realize that Harry left himself out of that future, but I notice. I don't say a thing, though.

I realize that Harry knows, has known, that his two best friends are in love. Ron and Hermione thought he had no clue. "W-what?" Ron says. Harry laughs, a sad, broken sound.

"Don't worry, Ron," he says. "I'm not upset, honest. You two are great with each other, and any idiot can see that you're in love."

"I just thought you hadn't noticed," Ron says lamely. Harry laughs again, a happier sound. For a moment I think there is a sparkle back in his eyes, but I am wrong. It is just a small reflection off his glasses. His eyes are like murky pond-water behind them.

"If there's one thing I do pay attention to, it's my best friends," he says. "I just didn't want you two to avoid being with each other on my account."

"Hermione and I would never abandon you, Harry. We love you," Ron says. He's crying softly now. Harry reaches out and puts his arm around Ron, pulling the taller boy closer. I feel like I'm prying into something intimately private now, but I can't look away. Dean will be sad he missed this chance.

He's always wanted to draw Harry, I know, but has never managed it. Something about Harry makes it impossible, and usually it's the eyes, or the expression on his face. Sure, Dean has made numerous sketches, but they're all hollow and dead.

That makes me think, while waiting for Ron and Harry to finish whispering and hugging. Dean's always saying that every time he thinks he's got a sketch of Harry just right, he finishes it up and then realizes that it's not right once more. That it's a fake, a sham, a hollow shell like all the others. But perhaps they're like that because Dean draws the truth—and the truth is that Harry really is just a shell now.

I hear shifting beside me, a bed over. Dean's bed. Perhaps this moment isn't missed. But in a few hours Dean will show it to me and it will be like the others. I know what it is now, and I will tell him. His pictures are dead because he draws the truth and not the masks.

Harry sits up away from Ron after a bit. "Where is Hermione?" he asks.

"Sleeping," Ron explains. "She was exhausted."

Harry frowns. "You shouldn't keep staying awake for days on end," he scolds. "It's unhealthy."

"That's what Neville said," Ron says with a smirk. A tired, worn smirk that could easily dissolve into sobs.

"He's right," Harry says softly. He looks at his watch. "Now come on, it's almost six-thirty. Let's get some breakfast and then go wake Hermione, okay?"

"Will you be all right?" Ron asks. Harry sighs.

"I'm fine," he responds, pushing himself out of the bed. For a bit, his pajama shirt rides up and I see he has more scars, on his back and sides. Then it falls back into place and Harry grabs his robes and jeans and shirt and stands there. He's going to change in the bathrooms, I realize. He's never done that before. He's never had terrible physical scars to hide before. Hiding the mental scars is second nature for him.

"We'll fire call Professor Snape, Harry, so you can go change," Ron says. Harry nods and goes out the door, leaving it open just a crack so he can be watched.

"Snape's the one that got Harry back," Ron explains, seeing my confused expression. "He brought him back, and he's the only one that Harry will change in front of." Ron sighs, like his heart is broken to little pieces. I know he's broken if he doesn't even hate Professor Snape anymore.

The redhead gets up, stretching his stiff body, and then changes quickly, running his fingers over his untidy hair before yawning and rubbing his eyes. He's a man, I think. No longer a boy, no longer a teen. A worn, thin, almost broken man with too much riding on how long he can keep his best friend together. And I know he doesn't want to do it, to keep Harry moving. He just wants to run away, like we all do, and forget his responsibilities, forget his fears as well as his loves.

I decide to get up as well, and change quickly. Ron glances at me. "I'd like to come, too, if that's okay," I say. "I don't want to be in the way...but I want to help." I don't know if I can, but I think I should try.

"Sure," Ron says. He pushes open the door, and I follow him as he heads down to the common room, where Harry is waiting on a sofa. As I watch, his right shoulder spasms badly and he shudders. "Was it Crucio?" Ron asks as he moves towards the fire.

Harry nods. "Six times," he admits. Ron whips around, alarmed.

"Six?" he demands. Harry nods and looks away. He looks embarrassed, but I don't understand why. But he's always been that way, embarrassed to show pain or discomfort. Nothing will ever change that in him.

"I'll tell Snape," Ron says.

"Thank you," Harry whispers. He glances at me and reddens. "I'm sorry," he says to me. I'm not sure what to do. He looks ashamed. I just don't understand why.

Moments after Ron finishes his fire call the fire flares red and Snape steps out, black robes billowing around himself like usual. He glances around, dark eyes taking in us all. "Potter."

"Thank you, sir," Harry says. He takes the vials that Snape gives him and downs them all, even as another spasm rockets through his body. The spasm quiets though, as Harry finishes the last vial. He stands up then, holding his clothes, and Snape indicates towards the bathrooms with his arm.

"After you, Potter," he snaps. Harry just nods, blushing again, and hurries towards the bathrooms, Snape just behind him. I turn to Ron.

"Hermione won't like it if she misses breakfast with you and Harry," I say. This is what I can do. I can make sure that all three, the 'Golden Trio,' make it. I can make sure they're together to the end, until it is just Ron and Hermione and no Harry. And then I will be there for them at their wedding, when their children arrive, and on as long as I can.

For now, they need to get as much time in with Harry as they can. There is a dark cloud, a deadline, a stopping point, hanging over their heads. They only have so long.

Ron nods, coming to a decision.

"Wait here, Neville. I'll get Hermione," he decides. He's gone in an instant, allowed into the girls dormitory without resistance.

Harry comes back while he is gone, changed into his clothes now. The scar on his cheek looks worse than it did before, an angry red as if just barely healing. Snape is just behind him, but instead of the usual sneer, his face is slack and even more pale than usual. For a moment, I think there are tears in his eyes, but an instant later he is gone anyway, telling Harry he will come back that evening. "Ron went to get Hermione," I say, trying to break the silence. Harry doesn't even jump at my voice, just nods.

"He should sleep. Hermione, too," he says.

"They worry, Harry. We all worry. And they love you," I add. "They love you more than anything, Harry."

"They shouldn't," Harry says. "When I'm gone they'll need each other's love to hold on. They can't love me."

"You can't stop them," I tell him. "That's what family does—they love you no matter what."

"I know," Harry says. He sounds defeated, but I know he isn't. He will kill Voldemort like everyone thinks he will, and he will die. I hope it's not true, but like Ron said, I just can't imagine Harry's future. "Could you promise me something, Neville?" he asks. His voice is hopeful and wavering, like the child that he is not.

"Anything," I say. My throat is closing up, my eyes burning with tears. I feel so helpless, so weak despite my somewhat overweight but much stronger body, while this thin, scarred and weak boy is so powerful.

"Promise me you'll look after them when I'm gone," he says gravely. "Promise me that you'll be there for them and go to their wedding. Tell their children all about their godfather, please." He's holding back tears as well, and I know he is not suicidal. He wants to see the godchildren he will never meet, I know it. I think he knows that he will never have children, that there will never be another Potter, but that isn't what bothers him. It is that he will not see the closest thing he has to family in this world ever again.

"I swear I'll be there," I tell him. There are tears on my face now, falling silently while I can't stop them. "I'll tell your godchildren all about you, Harry."

"The good and the bad?" he asks. I laugh, the same choked and painful sound that Ron so often makes when talking with or about Harry.

"There is no bad, Harry," I tell him as soon as I can speak past the painful knot in my throat. "None at all."

"Of course there is," Harry says. His eyes are on me again, and I feel the ice in my body, twisting, twisting... "There is always bad, Neville. Always."

"Not in you," I say. I believe that will all my heart, and I hear Harry's sigh, knowing that he knows that he can never convince me otherwise. He's probably thinking of when he has lost his temper with me, or the one time he almost cursed me when I startled him, but there was no way I could not have forgiven that. There is no bad in Harry. Or rather, no evil.

"I'll tell them about how you flew that old Ford to school second year," I compromise, searching for a laugh.

Instead, Harry is weeping now. I don't know what to do, but I move closer, I sit down next to him. I'm afraid, so afraid that my touch would shatter this frail yet immensely strong child, but I force myself to touch his arm. "I will never have that again, Neville," he says, tears under control now. "Don't tell Ron or Hermione," he adds. "Don't ever tell them how much it's hurting."

I nod. There is nothing else I can do. I have done what I can, helped how I could. And I think I understand now.

Harry breathes deeply a few times, composing himself, and I move away. It is not my place to comfort him.

"Harry?" It is Hermione's voice. She comes running down the stairs a few moments later, hair all a mess but school clothes on and clean. She laughs that broken, choking laugh, and hugs him tightly, pulling away at his quiet hiss of pain.

"I—I'm going to stay here," I say. "Not as hungry as I thought." I want to help, and I'll do it as best I know how. By letting these three carry on and try to recover. And keeping the promise I made to Harry, the most important promise I will ever make, even above any marriage or family vow. Harry nods over Hermione's shoulder, deep understanding in those incredible eyes. He knows I will keep my word, that I will make Seamus and Dean promise to me what I have promised to him. Together, we will keep Ron and Hermione together despite what they will lose.

Before they can protest, I'm up the stairs and back in the dorm. They will go on to breakfast, discussing what will happen next, what Dumbledore had planned and discovered. And like always it will end in blood, death, and more nightmares for Harry.

If he survives.

"I tried again," Dean says. He usually shows Seamus his sketches first, but I am awake and Seamus is not. I move over to him as he sits up in bed and shows me his sketchbook. The picture is of Ron and Harry, holding on tightly to each other. Ron is perfect, the picture of fatherly love and protective of his child, those eyes burning with fierce love, while Harry's face is just as visible, cheek tight against Ron's shoulder. But those eyes are dead. I see it now. "The others are all like that..." Dean whispers. "The eyes..."

He opens to the first sketch of Harry he ever did...and the eyes are it. They are the answer. They're deep and wise and intelligent...but dead. That is why they are different than Dumbledore's eyes, which are those of an old man that has seen more than a century pass. Harry has had a bit more than fifteen years.

They're deep pools of drowned love and life. Dean flips through, stopping at each picture only a moment until he ends with the last. "The eyes give him away," I whisper.

"They always have," Dean says. "I just didn't want to believe it," he says. There is a sob in his voice. "I don't want him to die."

"Me neither," I say. I sit beside him and hug him tightly. The Promise will come later. For now I just hold on. "Me neither."

Harry will not live, I know it now. His eyes have betrayed him—he is already dead.

A/N: There will be sequels to this, if I can make them fit right. The next part of this is almost done. I just need to rake through it again and tweak a few things. Should be up soon, though. –Miss Laine