Neville Longbottom sat alone in his dormitory. It was dark and quiet but for the sound of the other boys around him sleeping. He wiped the tears off of his face telling himself that he was being stupid and childish, crying like a baby he was. Neville was seventeen, much too old to cry. It didn't help anything, there was no use in crying. He sighed, he wasn't able to sleep, hadn't been for months now. It seemed that late at night all he could do was lie there and think about the things he would never be, the life that was passing him by. He felt so helpless... unable to do anything except sit there and let it all out in the only way he knew how, useless tears. He was tired of everything in his life, there was nothing for him except herbology, stupid herbology, the only thing he had ever been good at in his whole life. Dumb, klutzy, Neville Longbottom, the boy who would never live up to what his parents were, would never be able to make them proud because they didn't even know who he was. He was never good enough, never smart enough, no one cared about him. He needed something to make his life worth living, something that made him want to wake up every morning, and right now, there was nothing on the horizon, nothing to live for. He got out of bed and made his way downstairs hoping that the common room would be empty, that he'd have it all to himself. Maybe if he stared into the flames of the fireplace long enough he'd drift off.
As soon as he walked into the common room the fireplace sprung to life, chasing away the chill of the dark winter night. He sat down on the sofa and watched the flames as they made shadows dance around the room. Wrapping a warm blanket around himself he snuggled into the crook of the sofa, his head laying on the arm. His eyes stared unseeing into the bright orange flames. He just wanted it all to end, he wanted everything to stop. All of his life he had been left out of everything. His family had always thought that he was squib and he'd spent nearly ten years feeling their disappointment, feeling like a failure. Then he'd arrived at Hogwarts and things had been a little better. For the first time in his life he had made friends, he'd found interests, but no matter how hard he tried he never quite fit in. There were moments when he felt like he truly belonged, like he was meant to be there, but those moments were few and far between. He spent most of his time wondering when his life was going to truly click into place, well it wasn't going to happen. He was always going to be the outcast.
He looked at his wand, he hadn't even realized that he'd brought it down with him, sometimes he wished that he could just obliviate himself, wipe his memory clean, then maybe he would be able to start off new with nothing holding him back. Yeah, like that was ever going to happen. He was unnoticed, unwanted, unneeded, lonely... but those were the constants in his life, they were never going to change, he was never going to change, his life was never going to change. The odd thing was that he took a certain comfort in that. Neville picked up his wand and held it in his hand wondering if he had the courage to use it for what he really wanted. The wood felt warm and smooth in his hand, his now sweaty hand. He was a Gryffindor but he didn't think he had enough courage for that, to end his life. He wanted to die, but he could never take his life and end all of the pain that seemed to be consuming his life, and that was just another disappointment in his life.
The clocked chimed twice startling him. He hadn't realized how the time had passed. He closed his eyes trying to tempt sleep into over taking him but there was something else on his mind and it wasn't sleep. He allowed himself, for one moment, to imagine what it would be like if the one person that he loved actually loved him back. He knew that it would never happen, that she would never return his love, he had accepted that long ago. Sometimes he allowed himself to dream, to dream what it would be like if she looked at him the way that she looked at Harry Potter. He laid down and closed his eyes telling himself that he needed the sleep. The last few weeks it had been harder and harder to get to sleep and sometimes he just wanted to fall asleep and never wake up, not that anyone would notice if that happened. No one noticed him, except for her... but not even she could take his pain away. He told himself that when he woke up things would be better... even though he knew that was a lie.
Nearly thirty minutes had passed and he had nearly fallen asleep in front of the warm fire when a noise woke him up. He sat up just as Ginny Weasley came down the stairs. At the sight of her he felt butterflies in his stomach like he always did when he looked at her. Even wearing an old night dress and with her hair messed from sleep she still looked beautiful... but something wasn't right, she had been crying. When Ginny saw him she hesitated for a moment as if deciding whether or not to flee and then she burst into tears.
She walked over to him and he put his arms around her wondering what had upset her so much. He and Ginny were good friends. Ever since he had taken her to the Yule Ball in his fourth year they had been close. She was the only person that he could talk to, and he listened to her. When she felt little and alone and scared, he was there for her. He knew things about her that no one else did and she was his secret keeper as well. They had started off as tentative friends, being polite to one another. Sitting together in the library or in the Great Hall. After a few months every moment that he wasn't near her had an emptiness to it. It had taken him more than a year to realize that he was madly in love with her. He loved the way she rolled her eyes when she was annoyed, and had the tendency to snort when she was laughing at something really funny. He loved the way she scratched her head with her wand when she was thinking and the way her smile could light up a room. He loved everything about her... and she would never, ever, know. He contented himself with the fact that he had her friendship, and that was enough, it had to be.
"Gin, what happened?" he asked when she calmed down enough to talk. For as long as he had known her she had always been very strong, he'd only seen her breakdown like this once and that had been on the night when she had mentioned Tom Riddle and how she had felt about him. Someone who didn't know her well might have wondered if maybe her crying had something to do with Harry. Harry was her boyfriend and over the year and a half that they'd been going out together they had frequently had little arguments, but Ginny usually never got upset about them. Never to the point of tears. So it had to be about Tom Riddle.
"I had a dream... about him," she said quietly and instantly he knew what had happened. Although nearly five years had passed since the ordeal with Tom's diary and the Chamber of Secrets Ginny still had nightmares about Tom Riddle. She had only mentioned her dreams once to him a few years ago and she had never wanted to talk about them since. He wasn't even sure that any one else knew about them. The one time that he had tried to bring them up she had gotten angry and stomped off and he had learned that he was the one subject that was off limits between them.
He wanted to ask her what had happened in her dream, what about it had upset her so much but he didn't want to make things worse so he just sat there with her, staring into the fire, offering silent comfort. He hoped that she knew how much he wanted to make things better for her.
"I have them all the time, almost every night," she started off quietly. "Some of them aren't bad really, but others are really – difficult to deal with... to understand." He didn't say anything, letting her decide when or if she wanted to continue.
"Sometimes I think about the things that really happened. How I helped the basilisk, what I did to the chickens, those aren't the bad ones because I know that they really happened. I can say, 'yes, I did that, but it's over and done with'. Other times I dream about things that... that hurt." She looked up at him and he could see the anguish in her eyes. As if she was so conflicted she didn't even know who she was anymore, he knew that feeling and he hated seeing it in her eyes. Her first year he had noticed a sadness about her, in rare moments when she thought no one was looking he could see it and he felt the same kind of sadness. He just wasn't as good at hiding it. He wanted to protect her, to help, to do anything he could to ease her pain, to take the sadness away.
"I don't know why I'm telling you any of this, no one knows, not even Harry, I know he would understand but... I trust you, Neville, you're one of the only people I really trust." She stared into the fire and when she talked it was little more than a whisper.
"I – I was in love with Tom Riddle, I know it's stupid but I was. He was there for me when I was alone and scared and I know that he was, is, evil but a part of me wonders..." she stopped and he saw a tear make its way down her cheek.
"In the dream that I had tonight I had gone back in time and I was with him. He was happy, we were happy... together. I was his light, something that he could hold onto to keep him from the darkness. We loved each other, he wasn't Voldemort, he wasn't evil or resentful of his father, he was just Tom and I loved him, but I know it's not real, I tell myself everyday that it's not real but I hope... a part of me wishes... that it were true, that I could go back and save him from what he has become. Sometimes I'm not sure that I can take one more dream, one more moment when I wake up and realize that it is all a lie." She wiped tears from her face and a part of him understood what she was going through, how in her dreams they were in love but when she woke she realized that it was just that... a dream, and it would never be real no matter how much she wanted it to be true.
"I'm so sorry that all of this happened to you Ginny, that for one minute you have to suffer for what he did, but it's not your fault that he became who he is today. Maybe if someone like you would have loved him things would be different but you can't change the past. It's not your fault." He held her hand, lightly brushing the back of her hand with his thumb, holding her close. For a moment they just shared in the warmth of their company and of the fire.
"I don't know how I'm ever going to get over him," she said into his shoulder, where her head was resting comfortably.
"Sometimes," he said slowly, "the only thing that you can do is look to the morning, beyond the horizon, and believe that everything will be okay in the end."
She looked up at him and gave him a shaky smile, "I don't know what I would ever do with out you here to keep me sane," she said as she laid her head back down on his shoulder and squeezed his hand.
"I'll always be here for you Gin, I promise." And he would keep that promise... for her.