A/N: I've tried to make this story canon compliant, although I'm ignoring the interviews (translation: there will be hints of Neville/Luna later). It starts in HBP and will continue through DH.
Also, I am using US spelling. I hope no one has a problem with that.
Warning: Rated T for profanity and violence in later chapters.
At the end of the second DADA class, Professor Snape stopped Neville as he headed out the door.
"Longbottom, stay after class for a moment."
Neville swallowed, and Hermione shot him a sympathetic look. She had partnered with him for the lesson as before, surreptitiously coaching him on his nonverbal spells. He still hadn't successfully cast one, but neither had anyone else besides Hermione, so at least he wasn't conspicuous as the worst student. Still, Snape had probably found something to cavil about.
After the rest of the pupils cleared out of the classroom, Snape rose from his chair, but remained behind his desk.
"It's a relief to know that you won't destroy any more cauldrons, Longbottom," he began, folding his hands behind his back. "I should hope you're better at casting spells than brewing potions. You certainly couldn't be any shoddier."
Snape paused, and Neville squirmed in the silence.
"I see that you were fortunate enough to purchase a new wand before Mr. Ollivander vanished," continued Snape. "I understand that you broke your father's wand, but it's for the best that you did."
Neville blinked in surprise. He had told only his friends about the broken wand. Snape must have heard the story somewhere, but he had heard incorrectly. Either that or he automatically assumed the worst of Neville. Either way, Neville wanted to set the record straight.
"I didn't break it. One of the Death Eaters did."
Snape stared for a moment with piercing black eyes. Neville wondered, not for the first time, if Snape was a Legillimens.
"I see. In any case, you now have a wand that suits you, so you no longer have an excuse for your trollish incompetence."
For Snape's information, Neville had not received a single Troll for his OWLs.
He had, however, received Dreadful scores for his Potions and Divination OWLs.
"Like it or not, you are a wizard, and it's past time for you to get serious about controlling your magic."
"I've been serious!" blurted Neville.
Snape arched his eyebrow. "Then prove it. No more slacking and making catastrophic blunders. And stop relying so much on Granger. She won't always be around to hold your hand and whisper in your ear."
Neville glowered at Snape. The professor didn't seem as frightening as he had when Neville was 13. That was before Neville had faced real Death Eaters like Dolohov and Lestrange. He would have liked to retort, but he failed to come up with anything witty. He knew he probably wouldn't think of any zingers until he lay down to sleep that night.
So he merely said, "I'll do my best to improve, sir, but not for your sake."
"Fair enough. You're dismissed." Snape waved his hand in a shooing motion.
Neville hoped Snape wouldn't form a habit of lecturing him after class. Come to think of it, though, if that were the worst thing that transpired all year, it would be the best term in Hogwarts history.
As Neville walked toward the Great Hall, Luna and Ginny flagged him down.
"Hi, Neville. Have you spoken with Harry about the DA?" asked Luna.
"Not yet." Neville hadn't even tried to converse with Harry since they'd left the train. Harry always seemed preoccupied with something else.
"You know," said Ginny, "you could have DA meetings without him."
Luna and Neville shared a dubious look.
"I don't know," said Neville. "Harry's always been the best at Defense."
"That doesn't matter." She flipped her long hair over her shoulder. "You can still practice whatever you're learning in class during your free time."
"It's not the same without Harry," sighed Luna.
"Oh, you two just need a bit of self-confidence. Take it from me." Ginny gave them a reassuring smile. "If I can learn to get on without Harry, so can you."
Luna was on her way to Potions class when the wonted noise of derisive laughter reached her ears. Curious and concerned, she quickened her pace until she saw about a dozen teens gathered round Argus Filch. The man's face was as scarlet as a fire slug. He sounded like he was striving to bawl through a mouthful of peanut butter.
"What's the matter?" Luna asked anyone who would listen.
"Don't know, but it's funny as hell," answered Romilda Vane.
"I don't think hell is funny at all. Or perhaps you mean funny as in strange?" Luna regarded Vane.
The Gryffindor girl rolled her eyes and turned her back on Luna.
Shrugging, Luna directed her attention to the school caretaker. While everyone else loathed Filch, Luna had always pitied him. She could imagine how frustrating it would be to possess no magical abilities in a wizard's world. Even after he sided with Umbridge last term, Luna didn't hold it against him.
She plucked her wand from behind her ear and aimed it at Filch. "Finite Incantatem!"
The man's tongue loosened, and he shouted at the top of his lungs, "WHEN I FIND OUT WHICH ONE OF YOU HOODLUMS IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS, I'LL GIVE YOU DETENTIONS FOR THE REST OF THE TERM!"
The students dispersed, some of them muttering "Lame" and "Loony."
Filch turned his focus on Luna, his visage returning to a pale peach hue.
"Do you know who did that to me, Lovegood?"
"No, Mr. Filch. But it appears to have been a curse that I haven't learned yet, so it was probably a Sixth or Seventh year."
His lips stretched in a genuine smile. "I don't care what anyone says, Lovegood, you've got a good head on your shoulders."
A/N: I think that Snape was probably a better DADA teacher than a Potions teacher, because he really wanted to teach DADA. During his few teaching scenes in HBP, he isn't too harsh with anyone except Harry (and Ron, to a lesser degree).
And I don't know how IC anyone is, but I hope they're close enough.