Heed the Call
Come senators, congressmen, please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway, don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside, it's ragin'
And it'll soon shake you windows and rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'
Bob Dylan, 'The Times They Are A-Changin''
Four months after Christmas
"Look, there he is. Oi! Neville! Over here!"
Neville Longbottom had just entered the Leaky Cauldron, and made his way over to where Harry Potter and Ron Weasley were sitting.
"Sorry I'm late," he said, hanging his dripping wet cloak on the back of an empty chair and sitting down. "There was a... problem up at the school. Hannah will be furious I'm late."
Sure enough, as they spoke a small, slightly plump woman with blond hair pulled into a plait bore down on them.
"Neville Longbottom," she said angrily. "You are late."
"I know, Hannah," he said apologetically, "but some of the kids managed to smuggle in some Weasley products – a lot of them, actually – and targeted the Slytherin common room and -"
She thwacked him over the head with the newspaper in her hand. "Don't do it again," she said waspishly, and moved back behind the bar at the other end of the room. "Anything I can get you?" she added kindly to a customer.
Ron shook his head sadly. "She used to be such a quiet, kind girl."
"She still is," laughed Neville. "She just doesn't like it if I'm late. I think it's just an instinct left over from... you know. She knows it's safe now, she just panics a bit."
"Better you than me, mate," said Ron.
"What was this about the Slytherin common room?" asked Harry, interested. "Nothing too serious, I hope?"
Neville sighed. "No, nothing too bad. A lot of Dungbombs, a portable swamp or two, insulting fireworks. Nothing dangerous, just highly inflammatory to the Gryffindor-Slytherin situation."
"Is it getting worse, yeah?"
"It's been pretty bad ever since the war. No one trusts the Slytherins, and the Slytherins trust no one. I thought the first few years would be the worst, and they were pretty bad. Things calmed down for a while after, though. But lately..." He sighed again. "Ever since Scorpius Malfoy arrived, actually, there's been a lot more friction."
"Why? Does he cause trouble?" asked Ron, almost hopefully.
"No, nothing like that. His family name just ignites a lot of hatred – from all the houses. To be honest, I worry about him. If it wasn't for Al and Rosie..."
"Does he get bullied a lot?" Ron asked, chastised.
Neville hesitated. "Normally I wouldn't be allowed say..." he said, but at his companions frowns he added, hurriedly, "but as your children are indirectly involved, as his friends, it's best you hear about it from me. There have been no complaints of bullying from Scorpius himself, and I've not seen too much of it, but Rose came to me a few weeks after term began saying that there had been some problems..."
"What kind of problems?"
"A shove in the corridor, throwing things, childish pranks. On their own, not too bad, but continuously? It could be harmful to a child psychologically."
"And did you put a stop to it?" Harry asked.
"What could I do?" said Neville, desperately. "I tried to get the culprits names out of her, but she wouldn't say – apparently Al had sworn her to secrecy. I have an idea, but..."
"Who?" Ron growled.
"I think it's Pucey and his crowd. You remember his father? He was the Slytherin Seeker in our first year."
"Was he a Death Eater?"
"Not officially. I think he got some time in Azkaban for aiding Voldemort's regime and for crimes against muggles. He was a supporter though, just not one to take action himself."
"Well if you think it's the Pucey boy then why not do something?"
"I've tried getting them detention for some other things, but without proof, Professor Sinistra won't let me punish her Slytherins."
"Professor Sinistra? Wasn't she the Astronomy teacher?" asked Harry, surprised.
Neville nodded. "She's getting on in years now, but she still teaches. Didn't know she was a Slytherin until she volunteered to be their Head of House fifteen years ago. She fought on our side during the battle of Hogwarts."
"But if she's on our side, then why doesn't she want to punish - ?" Ron began.
"She thinks it's prejudice about her house," Neville sighed. "She hates anti-muggle values, but she's fiercely protective of her Slytherins. She claims that punishing them based on assumptions of their personality will only alienate the pureblood families faster, causing further rifts in the years to come." He rubbed his eyes wearily. "And, quite honestly, I can see her point."
Harry and Ron nodded their grudging understanding.
"I suppose you're right," Harry conceded. "Just... keep an eye on them, won't you?"
"Of course." Neville smiled.
"So," said Ron authoritatively, reverting back to the original topic, "you don't think Scorpius is like the rest of his family?"
Slowly, Neville shook his head. "No, from what I can tell he's not like them at all. Ridiculously quiet, actually." Neville smiled ruefully. "I don't think he likes me, though."
"Oh? Why not?"
"It's silly, really," said Neville, embarrassed. "I guess I just... the first few classes I had with the boy I..."
"Well, you know the way Snape always treated you, Harry? Because he thought of you as your father?"
Harry groaned. "You didn't."
"I'm afraid so. Not as bad, I hope, but... Look, I'm sorry! But it was like looking into a Pensieve and seeing Draco as a child again, the little bully who tormented me. I kept looking up into that same pointy, ferret-like face, except with pale blue eyes – which are honestly really startling when he's upset. I don't think he was happy with me. I tried to make amends afterwards, but he doesn't trust me at all."
"What made you stop looking at him like a little Draco?" Harry asked.
"First of all it was the realisation that I was being like my least favourite teacher – a horrifying thought!" The other two laughed, and Neville continued, seriously. "But then I thought of your godfather." Here he looked directly at Harry.
"Sirius?" asked Harry, astonished. "Why?"
Neville smiled. "Old, Pureblood, Slytherin family. But then the young heir gets sorted into Gryffindor. Does that not sound familiar?"
"Well, now that you mention it..." said Harry ruefully.
Ron still looked sceptical. "Being a Gryffindor 'like Sirius' doesn't automatically make the boy a great and true friend. Look at Wormtail! He was also a Gryffindor!"
Harry frowned at his best friend. "But Ron, think about it! We have no reason to assume he's in any way like Pettigrew. All we do know is that he defied his family to become a Gryffindor. Why compare him to the worst possible case?"
"Well, yeah," said Ron, "but he could be. We don't actually know anything about him other than his family, so if that's what I base a few judgements on..."
"We also know that both Al and Rosie like him," Harry interjected. "And even James and Fred say he's a nice boy."
"From what I can tell," said Neville solemnly, "he's a good friend, and not at all like Pettigrew. He doesn't ask people to protect him, he doesn't even do it himself." Neville smiled. "He inspires people to protect him. For someone with such a despised family name, he's quickly making friends. I'm impressed."
When Hannah came over, they quickly switched to new topics, mostly reminiscences of Hogwarts days, weddings and the antics of children. They spoke of Norberta the Norwegian Ridgeback – "Remember Malfoy's face when McGonagall gave him detention too?" - , Blast-Ended Skrewts - "Monstrosities" – , Duelling Clubs - "Ugh, Lockhart!" - , the DA - "I loved the feeling of rebelling against that cow of a woman" - , the Yule Ball - "Hermione was furious with you after that!" - , Harry's wedding - "Ginny looked beautiful – you looked horribly hung-over. Why did we insist on doing that whole bachelor party thing?"
As the evening progressed, and more Firewhisky was consumed, talk became slower and less distinct, but followed a similar wistful theme of youth.
Remember Defence with Lupin? Remember watching Tonks make funny faces? Constant vigilance! Remember Fred and George leaving the school on broomsticks? Remember... remember?
There was silence for a while, as each man struggled to remain conscious and coherent. Harry lost the battle first, slumping forward sleepily. Hannah had gone to bed hours ago. Ron was mumbling under his breath, but as Neville chuckled wearily over Harry's departure from the land of the conscious, Ron felt compelled to speak once more.
"Saw 'im th'other day, y'know," he slurred.
Neville frowned in bewilderment. "Who?"
"Malfoy! Saw 'im. Dunno wha' he was doin' there, but I reckon," Ron tried to tap his nose knowingly, but missed, "I reckon he was linin' some pocket or other."
Neville nodded enthusiastically, but it made his head hurt and made the room spin. "Mebbe," he said.
"Anyway," Ron continued, "saw 'im. Was walkin' through the fourth floor corridor, dunno why. Tried to avoid me as I walked by, but I said, I said to 'im..." Ron frowned, trying to remember what he had said. "I said... 'How's your boy?' Yes! That's what I asked 'im! An' he just... looked at me, and said 'fine'. Nodded, was on 'is way." Ron pointed an unsteady figure at Neville. "Most... nice intra... intrea.... interactchu... meetin' I ever had wiv a Malfoy, I'll... I'll tell y'that." He waved his finger a few more times for emphasis, almost hitting Neville on the head, before he joined Harry in drunken slumber.
It occurred to Neville, through an alcoholic haze, that he would be the one who needed to look after his friends, but he wasn't entirely sure he was up to that. He might have to wake up Hannah, but he wasn't drunk enough for him to honestly think that was a good idea. Maybe it would be better if he checked to see if Ginny was still up... After all, he wouldn't be the one to get in trouble when she had a husband and brother to berate.
A/N: I might be going a little bit heavy on the Bob Dylan quotes - especially on 'The Times They Are A-Changin''. In my defense, it suits the entire story rather well, and it's an amazing song. And I got my title for the entire story from it, so yeah. :)
Not sure how I feel about this chapter. Been planning to have it there form the start, and it could've been great, but I'm not sure I pulled it off that well. Tell me what you think?
Oh, and I just want to add that I went to an awesome gig last night. Peter Mulvey is my hero - check out his stuff. Now. I got a signed CD! It was amazing *_* -barely refrains from squeeing-
Next chapter soon - sooner the more reviews I get. And no, I'm not a review whore (well, not really...). I just write better with encouragement :D
Next chapter: Lily in Diagon Alley (not the title of the chapter, the description)