Neville Longbottom remembered the first time he realised that he could've been Harry Potter.
It was the day of his first arrival at the great Hogwarts, and even despite Gran's ravings and moanings about it and Dumbledore, he knew that she really loved and trusted the place. She was beaming when he got his letter, though she was prompt to say it had only been a matter of time.
Gran said something about Gryffindor pride being tarnished, and some other mumbo-jumbo, so Neville promptly continued to fiddle his pristine new trunk and awaited for when he could board the big red train (like the little model he had sitting at his parents' bedsides at St Mungo's that wandered idly around the table) in front of him.
Trust Gran to get there early.
"And I should be expecting to hear from you as soon as you find out what house you're in, understand?" Neville nodded. He could see a house rant coming on, so busied himself with petting Trevor, his new pet toad.
"Gryffindor and Ravenclaw, I can stand, but Slytherin? Unacceptable. Of course, you'd do well there, but it'd break Frank's heart. No matter, anyway - you won't be in Slytherin. You're like your mother there; too nice to be ambitious. Suppose I should've seen it coming, but there's nothing you can do nowadays."
Neville had gotten used to the old woman's ramblings over the years, and always swiftly noted the lack of mention of the Hufflepuff house. His mother, Alice, had been a Hufflepuff.
"Now, what I wonder is Harry Potter." The blonde haired boy perked up slightly at the mention of the hero who was in his year. He almost couldn't believe his luck.
"What house? I mean, Slytherin is a likely possibility, no wonder, because nobody knows anything of his upbringing apart from that he's with some Muggle relatives somewhere along the line - the fame might've gone to his head. Of course, both his parents - now, she was a Gryffindor, his mother Lily. I can't say the same for James and his little pranks. He always pushed too far, and almost got my Frank pulled into a few detentions. The cheek of the boy! I can't deny that he was brave in the end, though. Just like your parents.
"Do them proud, Neville."
Those were the last sincere words his Gran had said to him until the end of the year. Neville didn't mind though; she was tough, Gran, but she meant well.
"You know, I don't regret your name. Longbottom might've been a curse in the younger years, but afterwards, I've grown to appreciate it. You know why? It's probably the only reason Frank and Alice are even alive." Neville looked up in shock, first at the direct mention of his mother, and second because of the statement itself.
"Articulate, boy, articulate! As I was saying - Longbottom. You know why it's lucky? There was a rumour going round that He was coming after you. But just a name - it's probably the only reason Lord High and Mighty chose Harry Potter at all. Because Harry Potter sounds like a hero's name, doesn't it? Neville Longbottom, though? Not quite so much. And if it kept you and my Frank alive, then well, it's lucky, isn't it? I can't say the same for the poor boy with the lightning scar."
He didn't understand why He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named might've chosen Neville at all to be the Boy-Who-Lived. He was just...Neville. There wasn't much else to him than that. At that point, Neville had looked into the window of the big red train opposite him, and lifted his in-need-of-a-haircut hair up slightly.
Despite his efforts, he couldn't imagine a lightning scar there at all. But during his musings, Neville looked down and groaned. "Gran, I've lost my toad again."
Neville remembered the first time he realised that he could've been a Slytherin.
"Neville Longbottom!" Professor McGonagall called out in the abrupt voice of hers. Neville looked around wildly but, alas, no other person stepped up to the plate, or - well - stool.
"Oh, what to do, what to do..." The hat on his head mused. Neville practically jumped out of his seat. "What house? Perhaps Ravenclaw... you have got the common sense required. Or possibly Gryffindor, where dwell the brave at heart?" Neville wished the hat wouldn't ask questions he himself couldn't answer. "Oh, you're brave, alright. You get that from your parents." Neville gasped. "Oh, yes. Your father was a Gryffindor, your mother a Hufflepuff."
"Please not Slytherin, please not Hufflepuff, please not Slytherin, please not Hufflepuff..."
"Not Slytherin or Hufflepuff, eh? You'd be good in the badger house. There's loyalty, there, and a need to work hard. Slytherin, however... you're ambitious, yes, but worried. Worried of what your grandmother, or your parents, might think of that. Oh yes, it's all here, inside your head. You could do well, if you truly wanted to. But no; not Slytherin. Green isn't your colour," the hat joked.
Neville pulled, frustrated, at the knitted green jumper hidden by his robes.
"Stupid hat," Neville thought.
"Maybe I'll just throw you in Slytherin after all then?" The Sorting Hat sneered. "Well, if not Hufflepuff then it has to be... GRYFINNDOR!" The said house exploded into cheers.
In his excitement, Neville jumped off of the stool and towards the table. A few people were sniggering, and the boy flushed beetroot red as he went back to Professor McGonagall to give her the complaining Sorting Hat. Neville looked at the thing in disdain. He had sworn it had smirked.
"Stupid, bloody hat..."
"Nice one, Neville," a tall, red-headed boy beside him congratulated before warmly shaking his hand. For what seemed like the first time in a long time, Neville Longbottom smiled.
Neville remembered the first time he realised that he would never be Harry Potter.
"So Harry isn't the Heir of Slytherin?" The common room was far from empty on the Thursday night, with the majority of the groups of students talking, and the minority actually studying for the next day. A sceptical fourth year Gryffindor had approached a particular second-year gathering, consisting of Neville Longbottom, Dean Thomas and Seamus Finnigan. All three rolled their eyes, but said nothing. "Well?"
He later convinced himself it was the decor of the common room, or the wavering of the fire, but just then, Neville saw vivid red.
"Harry Potter is ten times the person you'll ever be!" He screamed at his House-mate, who appeared to be positively bewildered at this new out-burst. "He's done more for his friends and for this school than you can even dream of doing, and now you're calling him a traitor, and a coward? What sort of Gryffindor are you?"
Neville breathed deeply, and continued.
"If anyone's the coward here, it's you. What are you scared of? That the Boy-Who-Lived won't be around to save your sorry life when the time comes?" Everybody in the common room was silent. "Don't worry about that, because Harry is also ten times the hero any of you can even hope to be."
And the thing was that that went for everybody in that room, all Gryffindors, all students. Including Neville Longbottom.
"Next time, when you go asking around to see if the boy you expect to be a hero is actually working for the Dark Lord that killed his parents, actually use whatever brain cells you have left and think for yourself."
"Sorry Longbottom," the boy said.
"Yeah, sorry Neville," and other various apologies echoed around the room, burning in Neville's ears. There was a thumping in his heart that could just be described as pride.
"S'alright." Neville smiled shyly, running his fingers through his hair before he stopped and realised that it was Harry's habit, not his. He settled his awkwardly rubbing the back of his neck. Because, really, Harry Potter was ten times the person he would ever be too.
They would all forget that day, when Neville Longbottom, yet again, proved his place in Gryffindor.
But for the first time in a long time, Neville beamed with glowing happiness because, for once, he wasn't just Harry Potter's pudgy, clumsy friend. He felt pride.
Neville remembered the first time he realised that he would never be looked at like Harry was.
"Harry, Harry, come look at this!"
"Isn't he dreamy?"
"Hey, Harry, I can't get the hang of these Grindylows, do you think you can help me?"
"Do you reckon he likes me?"
"Harry, do you want to play a game of Exploding Snap with us?"
"Look at his eyes - do you reckon they were like that before the curse as well? They're just so dreamy..."
Neville, too, had always wondered about Harry's eyes. Not that they were dreamy, of course, because some loved up first-year thought that and it made Neville sick to the stomach to even consider agreeing with her.
No; instead, Neville wondered why not me?
Needless to say, his black-haired friend wasn't the best of liars, and Neville knew why. It wasn't some tell-tale sign like a twitching eye or a nervous habit - his eyes just betrayed so much. You could see every emotion flitting through them, fiery in his constant defiance of the feelings. Neville didn't look for the emotions; they were just there.
Green eyes weren't common, but they weren't incredibly unusual. And yet, people insisted that they weren't green, they were endless depths of despair and loving-ness that were shadowed by the colour of jealousy that lurked around his friends.
Yeah. Whatever you say, fangirls, Neville thought.
Even at the age of thirteen, the prospects of having a girlfriend were looking up for young Harry, whereas as Neville, the lovable, if slightly incapable, friend he was, had learnt not to hope for a girl to like him. He wasn't smart, or brave, or handsome, or ambitious. He wasn't the Boy-Who-Lived. He didn't have green eyes.
Not that this was Harry's fault, of course. He couldn't help who he was any more than Neville could. But sometimes, Neville wondered if it was the eyes that let him down.
Neville peered into the mirror in front of him, inspecting the eyes gazing back at him. Plain. That was the only word for them. They were a common almond shape, slightly squinty, and a dull, mud-like colour that vaguely resembled hazel.
They weren't shining amber or royal blue or chocolate brown or stormy grey or bottom-less black or mysterious, emotional green.
Sometimes, Neville simply wished that somebody would ask him to play Exploding Snap with them.
Neville remember the first time he realised that his friends weren't exactly normal.
Over the three and a bit years that Neville had been living with them, he had learnt to expect Seamus' enthusiastic, eccentric jokes and Dean's shy but mischievous smile and Ron's occasional outbursts and Harry's itching lightning scar.
"You know, it's a shame," Parvati Patil murmured to her twin sister, Padma, whilst working in Transfiguration.
Neville, who was sitting behind them, sensed gossip, and, being the friend of Harry Potter, he had learnt to always pay attention to gossip - and not to believe it and dismiss it to everybody who actually did. He leaned forward slightly, towards the pair.
"All the boys in Gryffindor," Parvati continued, "are just endearing imbeciles. Seamus is cute but way too enthusiastic, Dean is way too shy, Ron is sweet but he's so horrible to Little Miss Bookworm," Neville thought that this contradicted her statement a bit, "and Harry is the bloody Boy-Who-Lived, and he's not really interested in anyone but Cho, and Neville is really nice but not really boyfriend material, you know?" No, Neville didn't know.
"They're alright in their own way, and okay friends, but I mean, come on! They're all a bit weird, aren't they?"
Padma nodded, but Neville, oblivious to them, shook his head.
"Yeah, I s'pose they are. It must be a boy thing, do you reckon? We have Terry, Michael, Stephen, Kevin, and Chase. I mean, they're alright, but I'm a Ravenclaw, aren't I? They don't pay attention to us because they're always studying," Padma complained.
"Well, Pad, you're not much better," Parvati teased, winking at her sister and nudging her with her elbow.
"Seamus is sweet though, isn't he? And he doesn't have the hots for Chang or Granger," Padma said, with a look at Hermione, who was frantically writing down pages of notes. "I swear she's a secret Ravenclaw, that one."
"Nah, Seamus is too much of a player," Parvati said, brushing off the suggestion.
"What about Dean? He's cute, tall, and shy, which, in the language of girls, equals a win/win situation, doesn't it?" Padma asked, still stumped.
"I suppose he is cute, but he's always so quiet, and he always hangs around Seamus, doesn't he? And he barely looks at us girls. You know, maybe he's," Parvati leaned forward and whispered something inaudible into her twin's ear. "What do you think?"
Padma giggled. "It's possible... so that counts out Seamus and Dean then. Only Neville's left - what's wrong with him?" They both turned towards the boy behind them, who blushed and ducked his head, trying his best to appear inconspicuous.
They giggled again, and turned back to face the front, driven by Professor McGonagall's fierce but silent and deadly glare.
"He's... well he's Neville, isn't he? He's not as odd or as lovesick as the rest of them, but I can only think of him as a friend," Parvati said with a sad smile. Against his will, Neville let out a relieved sigh.
"Did you hear how Seamus asked out Lavendar yesterday? He said "Can I borrow your library card, because I'm checking you out." Can you believe that? Then Lav said "We don't have library cards at Hogwarts, but I think Hermione's made one anyway."
"I swear Hermione hasn't stopped fuming yet and Seamus is still bright red!" Padma laughed.
That was settled then; he, Neville Winston Longbottom, lived with maniacs. And, despite not being "boyfriend material", Neville felt that he belonged more than he ever had before.
Neville remembered the first time that he actually did something right.
"Right, everybody, find your partners. We're going to be practising duelling properly this time; everything's free game!" Fred shouted out merrily, but thankfully, Harry didn't hear him. Neville shivered to think of what would've happened if he did.
Harry took the Expelliarmus spell very seriously.
"You can practise with me," Harry told Neville when he, predictably, was left partner-less. It wasn't exactly a vote of confidence.
"Right-on the count of three, then-one, two, three-" Wands flew everywhere. Neville was tempted to raise his arms and protect himself from the ongoing assault on his person from flying stick-like objects, but he resisted the urge.
"Expelliarmus!" Neville suddenly shouted loudly, unsure of what, exactly, to do. There was a calm silence hovering over him, despite the shouting in the room. Then...
"I DID IT!" Neville cheered gleefully, pumping his fist in the air. "I've never done it before - I DID IT!"
"Good one!" Harry replied, and Neville tried to ignore the small, cynical voice saying in his head that in a proper duel, his partner wouldn't exactly be staring in the opposite direction with his wand held limply at his side. Neville shook his head, clearing it of the thoughts. But he knew that Harry was thinking the same.
"Listen, Neville, can you take it in turns to practise with Ron and Hermione for a couple of minutes so I can walk around and see how the rest are doing?"
"Sure, of course Harry." Neville smiled at Harry's retreating back, knowing the green-eyed boy hadn't heard him.
"Okay, Neville, how about you take turns with Ron and then I can see how you two are doing before we switch round?" Hermione asked kindly, albeit a bit patronizing. Neville knew she didn't mean it.
"EXPELLIARMUS!" The two fifth-year boys shouted simultaneously.
Ron's red hair turned a bright, turquoise blue, and Neville's wand flew straight out of his hand. The blonde-haired boy slumped, his shoulders drooping, his earlier success seeming meaningless.
"It's okay, Neville, try again with me," Hermione said quietly, whilst turning to the blue haired boy and returning him his rightful colour.
She smiled and Ron nodded encouragingly.
"Expelliarmus!" The two duellers said. There was an eerie silence as, whilst Neville's wand was once again returned to the floor, so did Hermione's. She practically lit up as she beamed up at him. Ron clapped his hand down on his shoulder, and Parvati and Padma, seeing the improvement, rushed over and congratulated the Gryffindor.
"You did it, Neville!" They cried, hugging him tightly. Neville tried not to blush.
"And against Hermione, too! That was brilliant, Nev, brilliant!" Ginny gushed, seeing the scene and obviously looking away from where Harry was helping Cho. Neville bit back a smirk.
And for the first time in Neville Longbottom's pitifully short life, he felt a little spark of hope. He did something right. And against Little Miss Bookworm! But now the Patil twins were rubbing off on him... not a good sign, Neville, not good at all.
Neville remembered the first time he realised that people were going to die.
In fourth year, he hadn't seen Cedric die - nor had he actually seen the handsome 17 year old dead. He was blocked by a screaming Harry and a horrifically grief-stricken father. There was nothing he could've done - he had barely known the boy.
In fifth year, Sirius was a stranger to him. He was just another Order member. No; that wasn't right. None of them were just Order members. They were people.
But unfortunately, Sirius was killed by drapery. In Neville's mind, it didn't count because he hadn't even spoken to the man, Harry's Godfather, and Harry himself held enough pain for all of them.
But in sixth year, it dawned on Neville.
In this - this war, people were going to die. And there wasn't much else he could do about it other than fight for the ones he loved.
Professor Dumbledore (or The Big D amongst Dean and Seamus) was kind to Neville. He was the first person who had called him brave, and who made him feel like a true Gryffindor, like he belonged. He took Neville into Hogwarts, despite his almost being a Squib. Dumbledore helped Neville, and now he was dead, and gone, and murdered, and he was never coming back.
Neville had given "manly" hugs to Ron, Dean, Seamus and Harry, along with a comforting pat on the back. He had let Luna, Ginny, Parvati, Hannah and whatever girl who needed it cry on his shoulder.
Because he knew.
He knew what they were going through, because, all very suddenly, their hero was dead. Only Harry was left; and only Harry was stopping Voldemort killing them all. And this was taking its toll on the green eyed boy.
Harry had known for a long time that lives would end, but they didn't. It was just another year at Hogwarts, a new bunch of students. They weren't made to fight.
So Neville comforted anyone who needed it because he didn't know what would happen if he didn't. Just a friendly clap on the shoulder, a light kiss on the cheek, a small smile or a game of wizard chess could cure almost anything in the Gryffindor common room in the upcoming weeks.
People were going to die.
Neville didn't sleep for a lot of nights after the day Albus Dumbledore died.
It was like a switch had been flicked on inside him against his will. The light was on, but nobody was home.
Neville remembered the first time he realised that he was not alone.
As he sat in the Room of Requirement, retiring on his hammock and lazily practising spells, Neville felt extremely alone. The Room produced a mirror, and carefully, he traced the scars lining his cheeks.
He had collected them over the year, like other people collected chocolate frog cards. He had a particularly large gash running down the side of his face that made him wince when he saw it. There were shadows haunting underneath his eyes and bruises covered his cheekbones, which were thinning anyway.
Neville was a mess.
"Anybody home?" Neville proceeded to roll out of his hammock in shock.
"Seamus? Is that you? What the hell are you doing here? How did you get in? Seamus, what have you done to your face?"
"See, I come in 'ere and save the day and this is the welcome I get? I'm appalled, mate," Seamus said in his Irish brogue, pulling a cheeky smile despite the bruises and scrapes covering his face. Seeing his old dorm-mate secretly made Neville feel a little bit better.
"In answer to ya questions, mate, yeah, it's me, I'm 'ere because I finally had enough of the Carrows. I got in the way you did - walk past three times and make a wish. And I didn't do this to me face, Neville. How much of an idiot d'ya think I am?"
"Sorry, mate," Neville apologised, clapping his hand on his friend's shoulder, making the shorter boy wince. He drew his fingers back immediately, gushing even more apologises to the sandy hair boy, who just waved him off.
"Don't worry about it. Now, d'ya think we can have another hammock in 'ere?" As if in answer to Seamus' question, another hammock appeared next to Neville's.
"I can't believe you're here, Seamus," Neville said, shaking his head.
"Well, ya better get used to it, mate, 'cause I've got a feeling in me bones that we're gonna be here for a while." He grinned at his seven-year friend, and told him to pull up a hammock and relax.
As Seamus told him, in detail, about the two days that Neville had been gone, he felt a sense of pride at his fellow DA members. With Luna and Ginny gone, and Neville now in hiding, they seemed to be working harder than ever.
And for the first time in a long time, Neville didn't feel utterly alone anymore.
Neville remembered the first time that, for some petrifying-ly odd moment, he - was - a - Gryffindor.
It was not a long moment, nor was it a particularly memorable moment, but, if just for that moment, Neville felt brave and strong and true.
And even in light of Harry's supposed death, Neville felt powerful, as though he knew the fight would not cease as long as Hogwarts and the students within her walls lived. He felt defiant, and after so many years of hiding he was finally free.
When he shouted "Dumbledore's Army!" to the heavens, knowing he would pay for it, he felt better than he had in years because this - this was what it was like to be a Gryffindor.
So; he wasn't Harry Potter, and he never would be, and he would never be looked at like Harry was, but he wasn't alone and he wasn't a goddamn Slytherin. His friends weren't exactly normal, and yes, people were going to die, but he was right and he, Neville Longbottom, was a Gryffindor.
He wasn't ashamed of this. In fact, he was happy about it.
So, he didn't have a cool hero's name like 'Harry Potter', but that was just a name. And just because he was called 'Neville Longbottom' didn't make him any less of a hero.
In fact, Longbottom wasn't a curse - it was a blessing because, hey, he was still alive, wasn't he?
This is dedicated to Neville Longbottom's cardigan, who held a lot of inspiration for this story, and the summer holidays, who made this all possible.
Oh, and Disclaimer: Unfortunately, no, not mine, because if it was, Neville, Gran and Seamus would've featured a heck of a lot more.
WELL, I desperately hope you enjoyed this little fic, which I have been slaving over for the past week or two now. Neville's always been a favourite character of mine, and I thought his thoughts on life at Hogwarts were not just wanted, but needed.
Please, review and tell me your thoughts not just on this story, but Neville in general. And more importantly, the epic-ness of Neville's cardigan. So, review?