A/N - Many thanks to codenamelily for her beta work!
The Initial Convergence
Seamus Finnigan slapped the newspaper down on the table dramatically. "Snape's been spotted!"
"What?" Dean practically yelled, grabbing the paper out of Seamus' hands. "Where?" His eyes scanned the paper greedily. Neville sat on the edge of the bench, wanting to hear every detail.
"Knockturn Alley," Seamus said, apparently not willing to wait for Dean to read the article. "The Apothecary's Shoppe."
"Why would Snape risk being seen like that?" Neville asked. "He's not an idiot. Why not send someone if he had to go to the Apothecary?"
"Maybe spending all that time with the Death Eaters is addling his brains," Dean muttered.
Neville looked around. Mail had just been delivered and by now almost every single student had heard about the headline. What before had been a simple murmur around the Great Hall escalated to almost a dull roar.
"I bet he did this on purpose," Neville said thoughtfully. "There's no other reason. He could have used an Invisibility Cloak, or Disillusioned himself. There are even potions that I'm sure he could make to allow him to be invisible for a bit and not be seen."
Dean and Seamus looked impressed. "You're probably right," Dean said slowly. "I hadn't even thought that he could be invisible."
"And not to mention that it might not even have been him," Neville continued, his mind thinking of all of the different explanations of the sighting. "What if someone used Polyjuice Potion or it was a Metamorphmagi?"
"We get the point, Neville," Seamus laughed. "Snape did this on purpose."
"And anyway, we need to talk about more important things," Dean said, slinging his arm around Seamus' shoulders.
"Like why you're ruining our social lives," Seamus said with a grin. "Saturday nights?"
Neville held out his hands helplessly and shrugged. "That's the only time all twenty of us can meet. Between four different Quidditch teams, the Gobstone Club, the choir, the-"
"Fine, we get the point." Dean sighed and looked at Seamus. "You know what this means, Seamus?"
Seamus pressed a finger to his lips and seemed to contemplate the question. "What exactly does this mean, mate?"
"We have to find girlfriends that are in the D.A.," Dean said with an authoritative nod.
"I like your thinking," Seamus said with a smirk. "Let's go over our options."
"You two are horrible," Neville laughed.
Dean put his hand over his heart and looked wounded. "Just because your girlfriend is already in the D.A. doesn't mean we shouldn't try the same thing."
Seamus nudged Dean. "Luna's not his girlfriend," he said in a whisper loud enough for Neville to hear.
"She's not? Why isn't she?" Dean asked, looking surprised. "I see you two together all of the time."
Neville felt his cheeks go red. He desperately wanted to get out of this conversation without like a pansy. Forcing a grin on his face, he replied, "I see you and Seamus together all of the time and I don't think that he's your girlfriend."
Seamus and Dean both laughed out loud. Neville let out a breath, and could feel himself relaxing. "Touché, my friend," Dean said. "Well, let's figure out who we can start courting."
Neville concentrated on the rest of his porridge while Dean decided to pursue Rose Zeller and Seamus, Orla Quirke. Dean's question, the one where he asked why Luna wasn't his girlfriend, stayed with him for the rest of the day. So much so, that he found himself answering "Luna eclipse," instead of the correct answer of "Lunar eclipse," in Astronomy that afternoon.
He had never thought of Luna as anything but a friend. A good friend. One of his closest friends, actually. But he had never even considered Luna as anything more than that. Was that wrong? Neville supposed that most blokes in his situation would have gone after the girl, but as he was reminded of almost daily, he wasn't like most blokes.
It's not like there was anyone else he was interested in. Almost a year had passed since he had had a crush on a girl. And nothing good came from that, remembering how he had learned of Hannah Abbott's mother's death. He had sent a card, and tried to keep in touch, but understood when the amount of time between her replies to his letters became longer and longer.
Neville nodded to himself. It was best that he concentrate on school and the D.A. right now. There were only so many distractions that he could take at once.
"We need a place where we all can practice," Neville thought to himself, as he paced in front of the Room of Requirements. "A place where we can all fit comfortably."
In his mind, he pictured the room that the D.A. used during his fifth year, with its wooden bookcases and silk cushions. A moment later, the door appeared and Neville let himself inside. A smile quickly formed on his face, the room that he conjured was just as he remembered it. He looked wistfully at the books. Hermione had loved them.
Thinking of Hermione, Neville pulled out the letter that Harry had sent him just this morning. A while back, Neville realised that he felt slightly guilty for starting up the D.A. again without Harry's knowledge. It was Harry, after all, who started the whole thing. To ease his conscious, after he had been elected as the leader of the D.A., Neville wrote Harry a letter, telling him what he hoped to accomplish.
Harry had written back just this morning, telling Neville that he was thrilled that the D.A. was starting up again, which pleased Neville greatly. He had hoped that Harry might leave some hint, sharing exactly what he was up to, why he wasn't at Hogwarts, but Harry didn't mention a thing.
Neville wasn't the only one that was curious. Just yesterday, the Daily Prophet dedicated its entire paper to Harry. The headline read Where is the Boy-Who-Lived? Rita Skeeter had written the accompanying article, wondering why the Ministry was letting the most important person in the war go off on his own, with no supervision. Neville had rolled his eyes at the article. Skeeter conveniently forgot to mention the fact that Harry was of age, and didn't have to answer to the Ministry unless he wanted to.
The door to the Room of Requirements opened and Luna stepped inside. She looked around, seemingly taking in the details of the room. "It's a bit chilly in here, isn't it?" she asked finally.
In the corner of the room, several jumpers and cardigans appeared. Luna happily picked up a plum coloured cardigan and wrapped it around her shoulders. "Much better."
"This is it," Neville said, trying to get himself excited about the meeting. Though the truth was that he was so nervous that he was surprised he couldn't hear his knees shaking.
Luna looked around worriedly. "What's it? Did you see something?"
"No, no," Neville said at once, not wanting to inadvertently worry her. "It's almost time for the meeting."
"Oh," Luna sighed, visibly relaxing. "That."
"That," Neville repeated, feeling slightly foolish.
"It's going to be fine, you know," Luna said, patting his should awkwardly. "And if it's not-"
"It's not." Neville finished her sentence with a sigh.
The door opened again and a number of students walked in. Dean Thomas was talking animatedly with Rose Zeller, apparently wanting to pursue the Hufflepuff right away. Ginny, followed by Pansy Parkinson and Millicent Bulstrode.
Slowly, the room filled up, and before Neville realised it, everyone was here. He looked at the nineteen students who had elected him to lead them. They trusted him enough to bring this group together. Neville desperately hoped that they wouldn't regret their decision.
He cleared his throat and stood up. Neville had written a short speech, something to inspire everyone and to promote House cooperation, but he couldn't remember any of it. Not a single word.
So he would improvise. That, he could do. He had certainly improvised before, from fighting Crabbe and Goyle a few years back to dueling Greyback last year.
Taking a deep breath – all the way down to his toes, like Luna had suggested - Neville started. "We're going to begin with a bit of a review. Make sure we're all on the same parchment, so to speak." Neville was quite pleased with how that sounded. His voice didn't break at all, and he sounded confident. He certainly couldn't ask for anymore than that. Neville continued, "We'll start with Disarming spells,"
Over on one side, Zacharias Smith let out an audible moan. "We learned those the first time around," Smith challenged.
Neville knew that this was his very first test as the leader of the D.A. If he were to hem and hah because of Smith, or worse, agree with him and change his careful planning, Neville knew he would lose the group and Smith might as well take over.
On a whim, Neville asked the group, "Raise your hand if you weren't a part of the first D.A." Seven students raised their hands. Neville looked back pointedly at Smith. "We're working on Disarming spells."
Everyone stood up and started to pair off. Neville saw that almost everyone was pairing up with someone from their own house, which of course was against all of the reasons Neville wanted to start the D.A again in the first place. "New rule," Neville called out. "No pairing off with a student in your own house."
A murmur rose up among the students. And there were faces - mostly Slytherin - that looked a bit offended. Fortunately, no one challenged him and Neville watched in satisfaction as Pansy Parkinson paired up with Ginny, and Theodore Nott with Susan Bones. But then a great deal of that good mood deflated when he noticed that Luna was the only one left without a partner, though she didn't look put out in the slightest. Ginny saw that Luna was partnerless as well and immediately invited her to join her and Pansy.
"Does anyone have any questions about the spell?" asked Neville. "About how it's pronounced or anything else before we start?"
Hearing Smith mutter, "Let's just get this over with," Neville tried hard not to roll his eyes. If Smith was a pain in Harry's neck two years ago, Neville was certain that he'd be a pain in his neck as well. Just something that he would have to deal with.
No one else said anything, so Neville said, "Begin."
Flashes of light whizzed around the room, with the occasional shout of glee or curse word overheard. Neville knew that this was the time when he should be walking around and making suggestions for improvements.
He could remember the first time he successfully disarmed someone. Neville knew that it hadn't been a real disarming; Harry hadn't been paying attention whatsoever, but Neville still treasured the memory. It had been a real breakthrough for him, letting him believe that he actually could perform magic if he worked hard enough.
And over the next few months, Neville had made it his goal to become a better wizard. That wish had intensified when he saw that Bellatrix Lestrange had escaped from Azkaban. He still had the newspaper that announced the escape. Every so often, he would bring it out, pages becoming yellow with age, and looked at the article, seeing the Lestranges faces staring back at him.
It helped him focus. Helped him remember that he always had to be careful. That realisation practically hit him in the face when Neville had seen Bellatrix Lestrange during the Battle at the Department of Mysteries. The smile on her face when she spoke of his parents had sickened him. And seeing her in person, when she had all of her wits and his parents none…
Snapping back to attention when he felt his fingernails digging into his palm, Neville forced himself to take a deep breath and relax. Thinking of that woman would do absolutely no good. And looking at the D.A. in front of him, he had much more important things to think about.
Neville started to walk around and watch the practice. He couldn't help but be secretly pleased when Cecelia Warrington disarmed Zacharias Smith easily. But then another thought crossed his mind. If this hadn't been an exercise, if they were fighting real Death Eaters, Smith would dead. The thought sobered Neville instantly and he felt ashamed for being pleased, even just for a second.
But then the shame was replaced by an intense, burning desire to have everyone in this room learn how to defend themselves. If Neville could help even one of the members of the D.A. to learn how to protect themselves, all this worry, all the nervousness of leading the group would be worth it.
At that moment, Neville realised that the D.A. was much more than simply studying and practicing for N.E.W.T.s. They were training to keep themselves alive. There was no guarantee that Death Eaters wouldn't burst through this door and attack. They simply had to be ready at all times.
"Constant vigilance," Neville muttered to himself, remembering the words of the old Defense Against the Dark Arts professor.
"What was that?" Smith asked, clearly annoyed that Cecelia had Disarmed him so quickly.
"Let me see it again," Neville told him, not bothering to answer the question.
Smith rolled his eyes as he picked up his wand and faced Cecelia, who looked at Neville questioningly. Neville nodded, and Cecelia shouted, "Expelliarmus!"
Watching Smith's reaction, Neville noticed that the Hufflepuff wasn't really making any effort to defend himself, causing his wand to be snatched easily from his hand. Neville looked at Smith seriously. "Are you trying to get yourself killed?"
"What do you mean?" asked Smith angrily.
"If this was real, you'd have no wand and you'd be dead," Neville said simply.
"It wasn't real," Smith mumbled, looking slightly embarrassed. Perhaps that thought hadn't crossed his mind.
"Try it again and make an effort this time," Neville ordered. It felt a bit odd to be ordering the Head Boy of Hogwarts around, but the fact that Smith actually seemed to be listening, at least slightly, helped a lot with that.
Smith bent down and picked up his wand. Neville looked over at Cecelia. "You're doing a fine job," he said with a grin. "Keep it up." Cecelia broke into a smile that Neville found quite endearing.
"Are you ready?" Cecelia asked Smith.
Smith nodded and held out his wand. Neville was pleased to see that Smith's entire demeanor was different this time. His body was alert and even a bit tense.
This time, Smith was ready. "Protego!" The Shield Charm worked instantly, causing the Charm to bounce back towards Cecelia, who quickly ducked and missed being nicked by inches.
"Happy?" Smith asked, chin raised, hands on his hips.
"Yes," Neville said simply before walking over the next group.
Most of the students seemed to have a good grasp on the spell. Though he was going to have to figure out how to help Kevin Bundy, who had a bit of a lisp. The best option would probably to come up with a list of spells that wouldn't require Kevin to say 's' or 'x.'
The group then worked on Shielding Charms and Stunning Spells for the rest of the evening. When they practiced Stunning Spells, it was disconcerting to see so many of the group fall down onto the thick cushions. But every time someone who had not been able to block the spell stood up, Neville could see the determination on their faces. He knew that feeling well, and was glad that others were experiencing it, too.
Finally, at ten o'clock, Neville ended the meeting, wanting to make sure that everyone had plenty of time to get back to their respective Common Rooms by the eleven o'clock weekend curfew. But to Neville's surprise, only a few students left. The majority all stayed in the room. A few kept practicing but even more sat down and just started talking.
Well, Neville decided, it was a Saturday night, after all. It certainly didn't hurt to combine work and play. There was a touch at his elbow and Neville turned to see Luna next to him.
Neville wanted nothing more than to sit down with Luna and dissect every detail of the meeting, but he knew that wasn't an option, not with so many students lingering behind who could overhear. Motioning to a couple of nearby cushions, Neville sat down and Luna followed.
Luna looked like she was about to say something when Lavender Brown tapped his shoulder. "What are we going to work on next time?" she asked.
"Surprise," Neville said with a grin. The next meeting was already planned out; Neville was going to start introducing the Seventh Year lesson plan and teach Binding Spells, which would allow them to tie up a foe without actually having to Stun them. Neville and Luna had already been practicing the spells, and Luna was ace at the spell after only a few tries.
Lavender rolled her eyes with a smile and turned around to continue talking to Seamus. Neville glanced over at Luna, who was playing with a charm bracelet that she was wearing. She looked up at him and smiled. "Did you think the meeting went well?"
"We can talk about it later," Neville said in a low voice, not wanting anyone, especially Smith, who was talking to Susan Bones only a few cushions away, to overhear.
Luna shrugged. "If you want."
They chatted easily for the next half hour or so, until Neville thought if they left any later, they might not make it back to their Common Rooms in time. By that point, there were no other Ravenclaws left in the Room of Requirements. "Do you want me to walk with you to your Common Room?" Neville asked.
Luna blinked slowly. "Why?" she asked. "You're not allowed in."
"I know that," Neville said, feeling his cheeks redden. He was only trying to be polite. "I just thought you might like the company."
"Oh," Luna said with a smile. "You could have just said that."
"You would like company?" asked Neville, feeling a bit helpless.
"Yes, please," Luna told him.
They were the last two to leave the Room of Requirement, but not before Dean walked by with an exaggerated wink that Neville desperately hoped Luna hadn't noticed.
The halls were quiet, with only the occasional passing ghost. Luna said hello to the Grey Lady, who acted like she hadn't heard the greeting. Once the ghost passed, Luna asked in a quiet voice, "Do you ever feel invisible?"
Neville let out a breath, wondering if it was worth even trying to count the number of times he felt exactly that. "I have," Neville told her. "I do."
Luna said nothing else as they walked to the doorway of the Ravenclaw Tower. There was an intensity on her face when she turned to look to him. "I'm glad you can see me, Neville Longbottom."
She then said the password and scampered up the stairs so quickly that Neville didn't have the chance to tell her that he was glad that she could see him, too.
A/N - I'm still on schedule!