"He'll be fine, Hermione, I mean it..."
Neville looked over to see Ron desperately trying to comfort Hermione, his arms wrapped tightly around her. He instantly knew it was Harry she was so worried about—with good reason.
He looked away, staring around the Great Hall where the dead bodies of loved ones were laid, and his mind wandered to the task Harry had given him. He had to kill Nagini, Voldemort's snake, if something happened to Harry... He wondered whether or not he'd actually have to do so...
Suddenly, Voldemort's horrible, amplified voice rang through the grounds. "The battle is won," he said. "You have lost half of your fighters. My Death Eaters out number you, and the Boy Who Lived is finished. There must be no more war. Anyone who continues to resist, man, woman, or child, will be slaughtered, as will every member of their family. Come out of the castle now, kneel before me, and you shall be forgiven, and you will join me in the new world we shall build together."
The room fell completely silent as Voldemort's final words echoed slightly.
"Surely he's lying, right?" Ginny said, breaking the silence at last, her voice shaking immensely with fear.
Neville turned to her, biting his lip. While he was sure that many things that Voldemort had said were lies, he wasn't quite convinced that Harry's death was one of them. "I..."
"Of course," Ron said, as unsure as his sister. Neville knew they were trying to convince themselves more than anyone else.
The entire room jumped at the sound of McGongall's voice, a terrible scream from the Entrance Hall. A few desperately scared looks were shared by Neville, Ginny, Ron, and Hermione. Instantly, people rushed to the Entrance Hall to see the problem.
"No!" Ron had gotten there first.
"No!" Hermione's voice came almost immediately after.
"Harry! HARRY!" Ginny's screams were the last and, by far, the worst. As Neville reached the Hall at last, he saw how horrified the three were. He then turned his attention outside.
He immediately saw a sobbing Hagrid, towering above all the Death Eaters, and in his arms—Neville's heart skipped a beat—was Harry Potter, lying motionless.
The entire crowd was screaming now, cursing Voldemort and his Death Eaters and crying for Harry. It was a heart-wrenching sight.
"SILENCE!" Voldemort screamed, obviously angered by his new subjects. Neville tried his hardest to yell his own defiance, but Voldemort had cast a spell over everyone, forcing a charmed quietness. "It is over! Set him down, Hagrid, at my feet, where he belongs."
The crowd watched as Hagrid obliged, their hatred for Voldemort continuously growing stronger.
"You see?" Voldemort asked, a strange pleasure audible in his cold voice. "Harry Potter is dead! Do you understand now, deluded ones? He was nothing, ever, but a boy who relied on others to sacrifice themselves for him!"
The furious onlookers attempted to protest once again, yelling silently. It was Ron who finally broke the curse, bellowing, "He beat you!"
Voldemort quickly silenced the crowd again, though. He went on furiously, "He was killed while trying to sneak out of the castle grounds..."
The anger at the lie he was not telling burned Neville's insides. He knew Harry, and he knew that Harry would never try to escape, to take the easy way out.
"...Killed while trying to save himself—"
With that, Neville let out a shout of anger, lunging at Voldemort, his wand ready in his hand.
Instantly, however, Neville was blasted back off his feet. He felt his want fly from his grasp and opened his eyes just to see Voldemort catching it. He cackled, throwing aside the wand.
"And who is this?" he asked, amusement ringing through his voice as he stared down at Neville. "Who has volunteered to demonstrate what happens to those who continue to fight when the battle is lost?"
"It is Neville Longbottom, my Lord!" answered Bellatrix, sounding manic with laughter. "The boy who has been giving he Carrows so much trouble! The son of the Aurors, remember?" Neville gritted his teeth, anger bubbling inside him at the mention of his parents.
"Ah, yes, I remember. But you are a pureblood, aren't you, my brave boy?" Voldemort inquired.
"So what if I am?" Neville asked loudly and venomously in response.
"You show spirit and bravery, and you come of noble stock," Voldemort said simply and smoothly. "You will make a very valuable Death Eater. We need our kind, Neville Longbottom."
"I'll join you when hell freezes over," Neville spat at him. "Dumbledore's Army!" he shouted to a great deal of cheering from the crowd; with his valiant words, they had regained their fervor and eagerness to fight.
"Very well," Voldemort replied, indifferent. "If that is your choice, Longbottom, we revert to the original plan. On your head be it." He waved his wand and heads turned to the castle; something was soaring out of one of the windows—the Sorting Hat.
"There will be no more Sorting at Hogwarts School," Voldemort told the crowd silkily, catching that hat instantly. "There will be no more Houses. The emblem, shield, and colours of my noble ancestor, Salazar Slytherin, will suffice for everyone." Suddenly, he turned to Neville, his red eyes glinting. "Won't they, Neville Longbottom?"
With another wave of the wand, Neville was put under the Full Body Bind Cure; his limbs grew stiff and rigid, and he could no longer move. Voldemort stuffed he Sorting Hat onto Neville's head, pulling it down so far that it covered his eyes. Neville could feel the old hat, it's cool fabric pressing tightly against his face; the slightly moldy smell filled his nostrils.
"Neville here is now going to demonstrate what happens to anyone foolish enough to continue to oppose me," Voldemort said, a twisted smile appearing on his face.
A third wave of his wand, and the hat burst into flames. Neville desperately screamed, fighting the curse as hard as he could. He could feel the heat and the flames, painfully licking his face and the hat. He wanted—he needed—to get free. The pain was unbearable, and he still needed to kill Nagini and keep his last promise to Harry...
The screams were quickly drowned out by the sounds of the centaurs stampeding, Giants quickly following; the voice Hagrid's half-brother, Grawp, was easily distinguishable as he called for him.
In the chaos, Neville was finally able to break free from the binding curse. He jumped to his feet, the flaming hat falling to the ground. He glanced back at the hat, noticing something glittering inside.
From the countless stories he'd heard about Harry slaying the basilisk in their second year, he instantly knew what had appeared in the hat. He quickly grabbed for the glistening object, pulling the shining sword of Godric Gryffindor out of the hat, the rubies on the hilt glinting slightly.
And Neville knew that this was his chance to keep his promise to Harry. He felt every pair of eyes in the crowd on him as he lifted the sword, swinging it at Voldemort's snake, who was hissing silently, draped around the man's shoulders. Nagini's head arced through the air and fell, a moment later, to the ground.
Neville looked from the snake to Voldemort, a righteous smile on his lips.
"HARRY! HARRY—WHERE'S HARRY?" Hagrid's yell echoed through the grounds, and everyone looked wildly around. He was gone.
Immediately, Voldemort abandoned Neville, desperate to find Harry once more.
Instead, Neville was joined by Ron, Hermione, and Ginny.
"My God," Hermione breathed, barely audible above the sounds of fighting, "Neville—" He simply shook his head.
"Where d'you reckon Harry is? Did one of the Death Eaters...?" Ron asked.
"No," Neville instantly said. He knew the truth now, what must have happened. "Isn't it obvious?"
The three looked at him curiously.
"He's alive. Voldemort was wrong—we haven't lost yet."