As We Stumble Along

---------------------------------

Summary: Everyone knows what happened to Harry in Deathly Hallows, but not much is known about the occurrences at Hogwarts. What really went down at Hogwarts while Harry was off Horcrux hunting?

A/n: Hundreds upon millions of apologies.

School and computer problems are taking over.

Disclaimer: Harry Potter is not mine.

---------------------------------

Chapter 27: Some Enchanted Evening

---------------------------------

Susie was gone. Neville was worried sick about Susan. He didn't want to think about what happened to her, and Ernie shot him a look when he even mentioned it. He couldn't help it if he was that worried about Susan. Hell, she was his grip on sanity. He hated being so dependent on someone else, but that really was what happened with Susie. The two latched onto each other, especially after Luna disappeared. Susan kept him happy (or at least as happy as one could be living in a hellhole like this one).

She didn't show up until Muggle Studies that afternoon. Neville felt his heart break when he spotted her, and Seamus immediately left his usual seat next to Neville to allow Susan to sit next to Neville. She slowly sat down next to him, her eyes not meeting Neville's. Biting his lip, he reached under the table and took hold of her hand. Susan squeezed it, but didn't say a word.

Maybe Neville was better off not knowing what happened to her.

---------------------------------

The DA meeting became less and less frequent as the Carrows began cracking down even more upon the members. Neville tried his hardest to keep a brave face, but it was difficult when he saw everything deteriorating around him. Susan was different. She rarely spoke to anyone, but would grab onto whoever was nearest any time Nott would pass by. Neville wanted to hex the living daylights out of him for whatever it was he did to Susan. Seamus was the exact opposite. He knew how much the other Gryffindor missed Dean. But the less information they got on him, the more violent he got. Even after the stunt of poisoning Carrow, he still hexed any of their little Slytherin cronies at any chance.

Time went by slowly. A day felt like a week. A week felt like an eternity. It was painful. People were losing their spark. In response to that, the Carrow's punishments got harsher for smaller infractions. Coming to class late (even if it was only a moment late), being in the common room after a certain time… stupid little things.

Now Neville didn't like being tortured, not at all, but someone had to give people a bit of hope. Even if it was a false one, Neville was trying to give it to them.

It wasn't even a full week after the detention with Susan that he heard about his Gran. There was so much on his mind that it took a backseat to everything else. He was worried about Susan, worried about Seamus, worried about everyone else except his grandmother. Deep down, he thought that the elderly woman would be safe from the Death Eater's grasp simply because she was old. The Carrows called him into their office after dinner (and his heart was racing, unsure of what they wanted. Usually a call to their office ended horribly). They looked upon the tired and beat up young Gryffindor.

"Are you going to stop?" Alecto asked, an almost calm tone in her usually harsh voice.

Neville stared at her. "Stop what?" he asked, always playing innocent.

"Being an annoying little shit," Amycus growled, standing up. Alecto put her hand on her brother's shoulder, making him sit down again.

"I don't know what you're talking about sir." Neville bit his lip, trying to keep the panic down. Panicking in this situation would be really bad.

"I'm sure you know exactly what we're talking about Mr. Longbottom," Alecto stated smoothly. "But just to make sure you fully understand, I want you to listen to me very closely." Her words suddenly had a harsh accent, but overall her voice was still as smooth as ever. In some ways, she sounded like she was scolding a young child. "Your grandmother is in our custody…"

Neville completely missed the next part of her sentence as his mind fought to process what she just said. They had Gran!? What did the old woman ever do to them? His stomach had plummeted with the words. "So you stop acting up, she remains safe and sound. You act up, well, she's not really all that important to anyone besides you, so we'd have no problems getting rid of her."

A sick feeling bubbled up in his stomach. He wanted to cry, he wanted to scream and hex them for going after Gran. It was horrendously difficult to reel that emotion in. "Do you understand?" Amycus added. Neville's hands clenched into fists, his small fingernails digging into his palms. He could quickly reach for his wand and hex them before either knew what was coming.

"Mr. Longbottom," Alecto snapped, breaking Neville out of his thoughts. "Do you understand?"

Neville swallowed and looked up at her. "Yes ma'am." He fought to keep his voice even.

"Then you're dismissed," she sighed, opening the door with her wand. Neville swallowed the words he wanted to throw at them and slowly exited the room. He made it to the nearest bathroom and quickly emptied the contents of his stomach into the toilet. He felt sick, he felt sicker than sick. He didn't move for nearly an hour. His mind was fighting to process everything that was going on. He didn't want anything bad happening to his Gran, she was the only family he had left. Without her, he was the only Longbottom left. The thought sent a fresh wave of nausea through him, grabbing onto the porcelain toilet bowl as more bile came up.

How could these people be so cruel? Attacking a poor defenseless old woman.

Eventually he made it back to his dorm room, still feeling sick and disgusted. He curled up in the bed and felt the tears coming again. What if they killed her? What if his antics at school, trying to fight against the Death Eaters, what if standing up for what he believed in led to her death? He would never ever forgive himself.

Ever.

---------------------------------

The next few days Neville was silent and subdue. He just listened in class, he didn't cause any trouble. He could see the Carrows smirking at him from the front of the classroom or from the Head Table in the Great Hall. They had a power over him, and in breaking down Neville, all their problems were done, they had complete control over the school. Sure some of the other DA members still acted out every now and then, but nothing to the extent as they had before their leader went silent and submissive.

People asked him what was wrong, people tried to make him feel better… and there wasn't really much they could do. Neville didn't tell anyone for fear of having to think about it even more. One step out of line and he knew that they would kill her. They were heartless enough.

There were no more DA meetings, at least not to Neville's knowledge. He didn't want to provoke the Carrows in any way shape or form. Not if they had Gran.

Thankfully this only lasted for a few days. He got a letter late one evening. He almost didn't realize the owl tapping at his window until Seamus went over and opened it. The owl flew over to Neville's bed and landed on the book the Gryffindor was trying to read. Neville stared at it and looked at the envelope it had tied around one leg. It had his name scrawled on it in his Gran's writing. He'd recognize that anywhere. He quickly untied the note and opened it, ignoring the weird looks he was getting from his roommate.

Nev,

I'm so proud of you, you have no idea how bloody proud I am.

Don't worry about me, I'm on the run, but I'm fine.

Your parents would be so proud of you, so proud of what you're doing. Don't stop. Give those Carrows something to worry about.

I love you,

Gran

It was short, and sweet, but it made tears form in Neville's eyes. How could he have been so stupid? He believed them when they gave him no proof in order to believe them. He took their word, he believed their lies. He truly couldn't believe himself. He couldn't stop the smile from forming. Gran was okay. She wasn't hurt, she wasn't captured by Death Eaters, she was fine. The relief in him was indescribable.

"You okay Nev?" Seamus cautiously asked.

Neville looked over at Seamus, still smiling and nodded. "Yeah. Meeting tomorrow night. Sp-spread the word."

---------------------------------

The halls were buzzing the next day. No one spoke directly of the meeting, but the prospect of having one made everyone excited. While they didn't do much against the Carrows anymore, the DA meetings turned into a sanctuary of sorts, a place where they could go to be safe. It was a place where they could be themselves and be kids without having to suffer the consequences of upsetting the Carrows. They might even catch a break and have a Potterwatch that evening.

Neville was once again different. Instead of being quiet and subdued like he had been for a while, he spoke out against the Carrows. Just little things, nothing too bad. He hated that feeling of being controlled by them, so any little thing he could do to show they didn't control him, he did. He wore sneakers instead of the uniform shoes. He didn't tie his tie. He left the top button of his shirt undone. He asked stupid questions in class (ones he couldn't get punished for), just to see how far he could push them.

Not a single punishment was dealt to him that day.

---------------------------------

That evening was a fantastic one. They met in the Room of Requirement. They didn't do much stuff one would consider "normal" at a DA meeting. Sure they opened up with some playful dueling, but it soon turned into more of just a small party. The room never ceased to amaze Neville. It provided chairs to sit on, and soon house elves appeared with snacks and beverages.

Terry and Ernie were messing around with the radio in the corner as Neville sat on one of the larger chairs, swirling the pumpkin juice in the cup. He liked seeing everyone so relaxed and laid back. It made him feel a lot better than he had in a long time. Susan soon walked over and sat down next to him. She put her head on his shoulder, causing his smile to grow a little more.

"Hey Susie," he sighed.

"I missed this Neville," she responded, her eyes moving around the room. It was nice seeing kids acting like kids again.

The two sat in silence for a while, just watching everyone in the room around them. Suddenly, Terry's voice permeated the room. "And we're in."

The room fell silent as the Potterwatch broadcast began. Neville wasn't paying much attention, his eyes wandering to those around him. Ernie had Hannah sitting on his lap, his arms wrapped around her. Hannah was smiling, and a laugh bubbled out of her when Ernie would randomly tickle her for no good reason. Seamus was sitting with the Patil twins, listening intently. Their numbers had decreased quite a bit since the DA first started, but Neville didn't think any less of the people that didn't return.

Terry was sitting right next to the radio with Tony and Michael, Mike's head resting on Lavender's lap. There were a few younger students that Neville didn't know all too well, that he wished he knew better.

His eyes ended up back on Ernie and Hannah. It was amazing how close the two were despite the darkness of the times. It was like nothing could touch them. He smiled again as Ernie tickled Hannah gently once again, causing a small squeal and subsequent giggles to rip through her and the small room.

"SHHHH!" Terry snapped. he knew that Potterwatch was the only way some people could get news on their loved ones outside of Hogwarts. Things fell immediately silent again.

"In other news," Rapier continued (Neville couldn't fully place the voice, it was either Fred or George… maybe Charlie). "Death Eaters tried to attack poor little Augusta Longbottom," suddenly all eyes were on Neville as the teen shifted to escape their sight. "Too bad they forgot how fierce the vulture was. Dawlish is still in the hospital because of her. Fantastic job if you're listening, I tip my metaphorical hat to you. Maybe we should just have you go find the Chief Death Eater and have you get rid of the fu—" Rapier was suddenly cut off by Romulus who didn't need Rapier going any further.

Neville felt a surge or pride. Gran had taken on an Auror and defeated him. She was safe, the thought just made him beam with pride for the old woman. Now maybe people would realize why he was so terrified of her. The broadcast continued, but Neville didn't really listen to it. He was so content with that little bit of news that he could store this feeling up and use it at a later date when he really needed it.

The meeting ended not too long later and people slowly began leaving to go to their respective common rooms. As usual, Neville was the last one to leave. He walked in silence with Seamus back to their common room.

Seamus tried to talk to Neville once they got their dorm, but Neville didn't really want to talk. He was happy… and it was nice to fall asleep with that feeling of joy deep inside him rather than the fear he was used to.

---------------------------------

A/n: Okay. Sorry that took so long to post. But it was a longer update, I just hope people out there are still interested. =/.

Leave some love?