Written for Ikrona's Nightmare Challenge on the HPFC Forum.
Disclaimer - I don't own Harry Potter
Neville jerked awake, panting as if he had just run a marathon, sweat plastering his hair to his head. This was the fifth night in a row that his sleep had been disturbed by these horrifying images, snippets of which stayed with him long after he had woken up. His parents screaming in pain, masked and cackling figures, and one figure in particular; Bellatrix Lestrange.
Of course Neville knew exactly why these nightmares had started. The mass breakout at Azkaban had shaken everybody at Hogwarts and Neville had more reason than most to be affected by the news.
Well aware that there was no point trying to get back to sleep now Neville got out of bed and began getting ready for the day, surprisingly quietly given his usually clumsy nature. Then again getting ready in the semi-darkness without waking the other boys in the dormitory was starting to become routine for him.
Plodding down to the Common Room he slumped down into a chair in front of the empty fire place. The minutes slowly ticked by and the sky outside began to lighten as he did his best to keep his mind on lighter topics than those that had featured in his nightmares. He wasn't sure how long he sat there when a noise on the staircase made him look up just as Ginny Weasley entered the room.
"Morning," she said, crossing the room to sit on a chair nearby. "I wasn't expecting anybody else to be up yet. Have you been up long?"
The utter despondency in his voice made Ginny forget what she was searching through her bag for and look up at Neville in concern.
"What's the matter?"
Neville shrugged. "Nothing. Just got a lot on my mind."
Ginny seemed to consider her words carefully before saying, "Does it have anything to do with the Death Eaters escaping? It's just you've seemed quite preoccupied since it was announced."
Staring down at the floor, unable to meet Ginny's eyes, Neville began to speak. "You saw my parents at St Mungo's. Bellatrix Lestrange did that to them. Tortured them with the Cruciatus Curse and now she's out."
Ginny was taken aback by the anger in Neville's voice and she didn't know what to say.
Neville hadn't intended to say anything more than that but before he knew it he was venting thoughts that had been preying on his mind for far too long.
"They were Aurors you know? Really played their part in the First War before Lestrange did what she did. Gran's always reminding me of all their accomplishments and all the Death Eaters they sent to Azkaban. I'm proud of them, I really am but Gran expects me to follow in their footsteps and do the name Longbottom justice. Can you imagine how I'd cope if I came face to face with a Death Eater?" He gave a bitter laugh. "I can barely disarm anyone in the DA meetings. I'd probably trip over my own feet before I even got my wand out. How am I supposed to live up to their legacy?" He asked mournfully.
Neville turned sharply towards Ginny. He was used to her direct, sometimes blunt, manner but that wasn't what he was expecting her to say at all.
"I spent so much time growing up worrying about how to live up to all my brothers' reputations. I felt like whatever I did at least one of them had done it first and done it better than I ever could. The summer before I started here I was terrified. What if I was the first of us not to be sorted into Gryffindor? What if I didn't make any friends? What if I was rubbish at the lessons? Maybe if I had been a bit less worried about constantly comparing myself to them I wouldn't have been so stupid in my first year."
Neville gave her a questioning look but she shook her head with a smile.
"Doesn't matter. Eventually I decided I was never going to live up to any of their reputations so there was no point trying or worrying about it. We're all different people with different strengths and weaknesses. All I can do is be myself."
Students were starting to trickle into the Common Room now, some going straight down to breakfast while others sat down to wait for friends or to look over work for their classes that day.
"And you decided that just like that did you?" said Neville, sounding sceptical.
"I'm not saying it was easy. There are still times when I wish I could be as funny as Fred and George or that H–"
She broke off, as a blush spread across her cheeks, gave a little cough and continued. "Anyway, if you ask me all you can do is be yourself to the best of your abilities and you'll make your family proud."
Neville still looked forlorn. "The only problem with that is the best of my abilities isn't particularly good."
"That's not true," said Ginny, surprising Neville with her fierceness. "I know for a fact that you're fantastic as Herbology."
Now it was Neville's turn to blush.
"You just need to start applying the confidence you feel there to other situations. Don't forget the Sorting Hat put you in Gryffindor for a reason. I know you're brave you just need to have a little more faith in yourself."
Neville nodded slowly but didn't say anything. He was staring pensively at the floor so Ginny didn't say anything else. Ron stumbled down the stairs followed by a laughing Harry and Hermione. Ron was the first one to spot the two of them by the fireplace.
"Are you two coming down for breakfast?" he called across the Common Room.
Ginny looked at Neville who nodded.
"Thanks for this Ginny," he said as they joined the trio by the portrait hole.
The images that had been haunting his sleep pushed to the back of his mind, and feeling a lot lighter than he had when he first came down to the Common Room Neville fell into step with his house mates.