Disclaimer: I don't own anything of JKR's. If I did, Neville and Luna would have ended up together. Anyway, don't sue me!
Note: This story has been rolling around in my mind for a while, but in-between exams and Christmas, I just couldn't make myself write. However, the mood struck yesterday and this was the result. This story is for my sister, who gave me the idea and waited so eagerly for it. Love you, sis!
Please review. They make my light shine much brighter. Happy reading!
It had been a week since the world had begun anew, and Neville Longbottom had felt each individual moment pass as if it was a shard of glass in his foot. It was so strange, to walk along the corridors of Hogwarts, and to have students stop and look at him with awe. His teachers spoke to him with respect in their voices, and there had been article after article about him in the Daily Prophet. Why, why was everybody treating him like a hero? He hadn't done anything special. It wasn't as if he were Harry Potter or anything.
He went to a window and leaned against it, sighing lightly. He had taken refuge in his dormitory, trying to avoid the simpering fools that kept asking for his autograph or for a picture of him. Didn't they realize what had just happened? A lot of very good people had died in that school mere days ago, people that he had known and loved, and it was all just because one evil man had decided that he wanted ultimate power. How could they have allowed such a thing to happen? It was very like the stories of the Muggle dictator, Adolf Hitler. People should have been able to see his evil nature, but they closed their eyes and allowed him to dominate because it was more comfortable than standing up and resisting. I suppose that's one thing I can be proud of, Neville thought tiredly. At least I did stand and fight. That's what I'm famous for, apparently. But they're treating me like I'm something special, but I'm not. I never knew what I was doing at all; I just did as much as I could the best I could. He sighed in frustration, and looked around the room for something to do. Seeing a copy of a wizarding magazine on Seamus' bed, he picked it up. The title on the first page screamed, "Neville Longbottom: His Secret Loves at Hogwarts." Crumbling up the magazine in one hand, he threw the thing clear out the window with a small cry of rage.
"Neville?" Neville's head snapped around as he heard someone softly say his name. It was Harry, looking slightly hesitant and just as weary as Neville felt. "I don't think Seamus is going to be terribly happy about you throwing his magazine out the window. What's up, man? Why are you hiding up here?"
"Same reason you're hiding," Neville replied, sighing. "I couldn't stand all those stupid people that don't have anything better to do than to ask me about my O.W.L grades and my love life a minute longer." Harry grinned at this. Neville ran a hand through his hair and continued, "I now have a slightly better appreciation of what you went through, being famous and all. How did you get through the day, with everyone interested in your smallest doings?"
Harry laughed. "You eventually learn to ignore it, but then I was never very good at that. Like as not I'd get my nose out of joint and make an arse of myself, which I'm sure you can remember easily."
"Well, it's driving me mad," Neville said acidly, allowing some of his annoyance and anger to show. "Don't those silly idiots realize what's just happened? They keep following me around, asking how I killed the snake and how I got the sword-they don't like it when I say that I have no more clue of how I did it than they did. In fact, they all probably have better guesses than mine."
Harry collapsed on his bed and peered at Neville. "That's what I've been trying to tell you lot for years. You'd look at me with those huge eyes and I knew you were thinking about what a great wizard I was, to have made a Patronus and killed basilisks and all that blather. You never seemed to understand that I never truly did anything by myself. If there's one thing I've learned through all this, it's that heroes are never truly heroes. They can only stand as high as they do because other people are lifting them up."
"I don't know, Harry. They're treating me like…like I'm you or something, and you I'm bloody well not. I mean, you nearly destroyed Voldemort as a baby…I'm just Neville. A bumbling idiot who's only good at Herbology. We're nothing at all alike, you and I." Neville looked around the room miserably. "I don't deserve all this attention just because I did what any other man would have done in my place. I'm not spectacular, and I'm certainly no hero."
A long silence followed this, making Neville feel increasingly uncomfortable. Had he offended Harry somehow? Finally, Harry said slowly, "You know, we're a lot more alike that you realize."
"What do you mean?" Neville asked, going to sit across from Harry on Dean's bed.
"I'm…not sure I'm the one to tell you all this. But then again, if I don't, who will? The only other people that know about this are either dead or oblivious," Harry said, speaking a little to himself.
"Spit it out, Harry," Neville said, finding that his heart was beating very fast. "How are you and I alike?"
Harry took a deep breath. "It was only one small decision, Neville, a cruel twist of fate, that kept you from being me, and me from being you. You don't understand how much our lives have been intertwined."
Neville shook his head and raised a hand in a gesture of surrender. "Whoa, back up. I don't understand what you're saying at all. Come again?"
Harry looked down at his hands. "I didn't know until two years ago, Neville. I found out that night we went to the Ministry. You remember how we fought the Death Eaters for that prophecy after?"
"Yeah, the one I smashed," replied Neville, wincing at the memory. "Sorry about that. Anyway, what does that have to do with anything?"
"It has everything to do with everything, Neville," replied Harry emphatically. "That prophecy was given by Professor Trelawney to Professor Dumbledore, just before you and I were born. This is what it said: The on with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches…born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies…and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power that the Dark Lord knows not…and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives…the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies…" Harry's voice had taken on a weird, slightly misty sound as he recited the words that had been burned forever into his brain on that terrible night in his fifth year.
Neville listened, feeling as if the words bore a heavy destiny, but not understanding how that destiny had anything at all to do with him. "What's your point, Harry? Aside from the fact that this means Professor Trelawney isn't an old fraud, I don't understand what you're saying. The prophecy clearly means you, the whole 'marking as his equal' thing and all."
Harry leaned forward in his eagerness. "But don't you see, Neville? Don't you understand? Born as the seventh month dies, both of parents who have thrice defied him…" His green eyes burned holes into Neville's own. "I'm not the only one those words apply to."
"Wait a second…are you saying what I think you're saying?" Neville said, feeling ice water running through his veins. "Are you saying that that prophecy could have meant me, not you? I mean, I know my mum and dad had some fights with Voldemort, but I never knew how many…"
"I do," said Harry quietly. "Three."
Feeling bile rising in his throat, Neville choked for a second as he tried to fathom what Harry was saying. "So it could've been me…" he said weakly. "I could have been the one who had to defeat Voldemort…"
"Yes," replied Harry, watching Neville carefully. "I told you that we were more alike than you thought."
"But…but why didn't Voldemort choose me? Why did he go for you? It's not like he could see into the future and see what kind of people we'd turn out to be or anything," Neville said hastily, trying to make sense of it all.
"I asked Dumbledore that very question," Harry replied, thinking sadly of his mentor. "He said that it was because I was a half-blood, like Voldemort. He chose the boy most like himself. You were a pureblood."
"So, that's it, then? You got chosen because you had a Muggle mother? Well, that's just rich. He's a damn sight smarter than I gave him credit for-if I'd been the Chosen One, we would've all been goners," Neville said, surprising himself a little with the amount of bitterness in his own voice.
"No," Harry replied vehemently. "We wouldn't have been, Neville. Don't you understand? That's why everyone's treating you the way they have. You've become that hero, Neville. I think you could have done a lot better at this than I have," he said, reminding himself of his failures, particularly those with his friends. "In case you haven't noticed, I haven't exactly been great at keeping my temper whenever things got hard."
"Fine words," Neville spit out, surprised at how angry he truly was. "You were always good at the important things…dueling, Quidditch. I just managed to get stinksap all over myself. Merlin's beard, Harry! If he'd have chosen me, you would've had a mother, father, family. I would be the one with the scar on my forehead and a doom…because that's what the prophecy meant, didn't it? You had to die in order to kill Voldemort."
"You haven't exactly had it light either, Neville," Harry reminded him. "I never had to see my parents in a hospital bed." He couldn't quite make himself say that hard word: insane.
Neville felt sick again at this reminder of his parents. For some strange reason, he had always hoped that when Voldemort had been properly defeated, his parents would magically be healed and he would finally have his family back. But it hadn't happened that way. They were still in St. Mungo's, and he was still alone.
"But this doesn't change anything," Neville finally said. "It doesn't make me any more of a hero. Because when you get right down to it, even Voldemort could recognize the fact that I wasn't the Chosen One. I don't deserve all this…fame. I'm not you, Harry."
"Of course you're not. You're Neville Longbottom, and that should be enough for anyone," Harry replied bracingly. Neville's only reply was a very profound snort. "Look, you were just saying yourself that being a hero isn't all that it's cracked up to be, didn't you? Neville, I wouldn't have defeated Voldemort if it hadn't been for you." Briefly, he told Neville what he'd only told a few other people-all about the Horcruxes and the search to destroy them.
"So you're saying," Neville whispered in a slow voice, "that if I hadn't killed the snake, then Voldemort wouldn't have been defeated?"
"Yes, Neville. That's exactly what I'm saying. But it wasn't just killing the snake that made you a hero. It was your courage, and your hope. You led a rebellion here at school. You made sure that the kids stayed safe. You were ready, willing, and able to fight for this school, when a lot of people ran in the other direction. It's those things, Neville, that make you a hero. Not for defying Voldemort to his face, although that was bloody brilliant, but because you had the courage to stand and fight." Harry shook his head for a minute, hoping that he was managing to somehow get through to Neville. He took a deep breath and continued. "That's why we're alike. We aren't the only heroes, you know. The biggest heroes are the ones that didn't make it-the Colin Creeveys and the Remus Lupins of the world that gave everything they had. We have to live for their memories-and we can't tarnish their actions."
"But if everyone that stood and fought is a hero," Neville said, understanding finally shining in his eyes, "then we aren't really heroes at all. Who are you and I to stand out, when everybody else did just as much, if not more, than we did?"
Harry nodded, looking oddly proud. "That's what makes you a hero, Neville. You realize that heroes really aren't that special after all. I'm the Chosen One, you're the wielder of the Sword of Gryffindor; but we are only small parts of the greater plan."
There was a long and profound silence. Neville finally looked up and said, "Harry, do you remember our fourth year, when the Tournament was here, and Moody?"
Harry rolled his eyes. "I remember that year excruciatingly well, Neville."
Neville snorted a little with laughter, and then continued. "I remember that day when Moody showed us those Unforgivable Curses…I remember looking at that spider, sitting there and writhing in pain. What my parents had done for me had never…never been real to me before. They were just these vegetables lying in their beds that my grandmother forced me to visit all the time. I resented them if anything, because I wanted a normal life, and the only thing standing between me and that was them. I never really understood their sacrifice. Moody made it real for me."
"I know what you mean," said Harry in a low voice. "It was the same for me."
Neville looked up, and Harry saw something new shining in his eyes, something that he couldn't quite recognize. "It was that lesson that changed everything for me. I finally understood the evil that was out there, and all that my parents had gone through. When you started the DA, everything just seemed to get thrown into a clearer focus. But that's the thing, Harry. I never would have been spurred to work unless my parents had been tortured. I would have gone on, looking only at my plants and never believing that I was remotely capable of being anything resembling a hero. Voldemort made me his enemy, and he gave me the motivation to fight him. If he and his cronies had just left well enough alone, how many of us would have really fought him?"
"You're right, Neville. Dumbledore told me the same things. I didn't believe him at first, but he was right. Voldemort brought about his own doom through his actions. But Neville, I knew long before fourth year that you would make us proud." Neville looked quizzically at Harry. "I knew in first year, when you stood up to Ron, Hermione and me. I knew then that here was a wizard that we would all be proud of."
"You really thought that?" asked Neville hoarsely.
Harry nodded. "And Dumbledore thought the same. Even if Voldemort had made you the Chosen One Neville, I think we would have all been fine. You, who are worth twelve of Malfoy, are a real hero, inside and out."
Neville smiled. "Thanks Harry." He stood up and stretched. "Feel like going down to dinner? I'm really hungry."
Harry grinned. "Sure." Getting up, the two boys left the dormitory, not even realizing that the shadows that they cast on the wall looked very much alike indeed.