The funeral started out as a solemn, understated affair as the mourners spoke in whispers on the way to the chairs set up in rows on the lawn. Luna broke off from the Ravenclaws and joined the Gryffindors.
"How are you feeling, Neville?"
Neville knew that she was asking out of genuine concern rather than politeness, so he gave her an honest answer. "Better, thanks, but it still hurts when I bend my waist."
"What about the potion Madame Pomfrey gave you? Is it not working?"
"I forgot to take it this morning," he admitted, lowering his voice even more.
"Tell me where it is and I'll go fetch it."
"Don't trouble yourself Luna. The funeral is about to start. I don't want you to miss the beginning."
Luna glanced uncertainly from the castle to the chairs. "Are you sure you can manage without it?"
He nodded. "I'll be fine. The service probably won't last longer than an hour. I can get the potion when it's over."
They found chairs near the end of the fourth row. Luna gripped Neville's arms, half-supporting his weight as he eased into his seat. Once he was settled, he searched for his grandmother. After a moment, he saw her a few rows behind him. She wore a charcoal gray coat, and had left her vulture hat at home, trading it for a simple pointed black hat with a broad brim. Next to her, Great Uncle Algie murmured something, causing Great Aunt Enid to dig her elbow into his side. Neville waved to get their attention. Only Gran turned toward him with an acknowledging nod. Then her eyes slid past his and hardened as they fixed on something - or someone - behind him and to the right. Perplexed, Neville faced the front.
There at the end of the front row sat Dolores Umbridge. Her tight curls had gone gray, but there was no mistaking her bulging eyes and broad mouth. He gritted his teeth. Who had invited the second-worst professor he'd ever had? What next, were Snape and Voldemort going to crash the funeral?
"Neville, why are you reaching for your wand?" Luna asked conversationally.
"Umbridge is here," he practically growled, jerking his head toward the petty tyrant.
"Oh!" She blinked in astonishment. "And look, Firenze is here too." Luna gestured toward the centaur standing near the lake. "I expect she'll behave herself with him around," she added with an unusually wry smile.
Then, as the merpeople in the lake began to sing, Hagrid shuffled down the center aisle, bearing Dumbledore's body. Tears streamed from Gamekeeper's eyes, and he looked so devastated that Neville's eyes welled up in sympathy. Dumbledore had fought to keep Hagrid at Hogwarts, and ensured that he could earn a living. Neville couldn't imagine how difficult it must be to carry the corpse of his mentor and friend.
Hagrid carefully laid the Headmaster's body on the marble table. Then the officiator began his oration, which Neville had to strain to hear.
"Why doesn't he use Sonorous?" whispered Luna.
The eulogy itself was disappointingly generic, full of platitudes like, "his memory will live on in the hearts and minds of all who knew him." All the personal details were appropriated from his Chocolate Frog card: how he had defeated the dark wizard Grindelwald and discovered 12 uses for dragon's blood.
Neville's mind drifted toward his own memories of Dumbledore. He hadn't been close to the late Headmaster, but he would still miss his reassuring presence at Hogwarts. The school would be a little drearier without the old wizard's amusing speeches that began and ended each term. Neville also recognized that Dumbledore's demise was detrimental to the fight against Voldemort. After all, everyone said that Dumbledore was the only wizard Voldemort feared - except maybe Harry Potter.
When the eulogy ended, white-hot flames blasted up from the table. Neville jumped in his chair, and a few people screamed.
Nothing like this had happened at Granddad's funeral. The officiator had simply levitated the corpse into the vault, and the mourners had conjured flowers to cover it.
Here, though, the flames snuffed out, and a marble tomb covered Dumbledore's body. Neville wondered if Dumbledore himself had cast this enchantment in preparation for his burial. That seemed likely: the Headmaster always had something up his sleeve, rather like the way he always gave Gryffindor enough last-minute points to win the House cup. Neville smiled a bit at the memory, in spite of the grave setting. There was no chance that Professor McGonagall would continue that tradition; it would die with Dumbledore. But the House cup was hardly important when a powerful dark wizard and his followers were on the rise.
Neville was startled out of his musings when a volley of arrows shot toward the tomb, thudding into the ground behind it. Luna pointed out the centaurs at the edge of the forest. Apparently, they were giving a tribute to the deceased wizard, but Neville couldn't figure out why. As far as Neville knew, Firenze was the only centaur who liked and trusted humans.
The mourners began to stand, and Gran marched toward Umbridge.
"This ought to be good," said Uncle Algie, a little too loudly.
Neville frowned and struggled to his feet, knowing things could get ugly between the two witches. He wanted to get over there to help his Gran if she needed it. Luna jumped out of her seat to grab his arm and steady him.
"Excuse me, Madame Umbridge," said Gran, with cold politeness. "I had no idea you were fond of Albus Dumbledore, considering you thought him unworthy of his position at Hogwarts."
Umbridge got to her feet and faced the older witch. "And who might you be?" She spoke quietly, with a dangerous smile.
Gran drew herself up. She wasn't tall, but she towered over the squat politician. "Augusta Longbottom. My grandson is a Sixth year student."
Neville walked up behind Gran, while Luna held his wand arm, most likely to keep him from doing something reckless.
"Longbottom…" said Umbridge, putting her hand to her chin. "Ah yes, he's on my list." Her gaze landed on Neville, and he glared back at her.
"What list?" snapped Gran.
"My list of students who pose a threat to the Ministry. Or themselves, in some cases," she added, with a pointed look at Neville. "We'll be watching them next year, to ensure that they don't start any more trouble."
Gran's face turned crimson. "Are you still afraid of a group of school children? Doesn't the Ministry have more important things to worry about? Like, for example, the murder of the most respected wizard in the world?"
Umbridge's broad mouth drooped in patently fake sorrow. "Unfortunately, the tragic loss of Albus Dumbledore has only reaffirmed my belief that Hogwarts cannot function apart from the Ministry's direct supervision. We have reached a decision to appoint a new Headmaster, as well as a new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. In addition, we are drafting measures to make Hogwarts a more…hem hem…exclusive school."
Gran narrowed her blue eyes. "What do you mean by that?"
Umbridge's smile returned, as smug as ever. "I mean that the Ministry is planning to review the background of each student to confirm his integrity."
"I see." Gran pursed her lips. "And what qualifications will you review, exactly?"
"We would consider past infringements in school and out of school, as well as blood status," answered politician, her voice dripping with inappropriate sweetness.
"That comes as no surprise, judging by your repellent treatment of Professor Hagrid."
Hearing his name, Hagrid eyed her curiously from several rows over. Actually, the arguing witches had drawn a small crowd of mostly adult mourners.
Umbridge smirked in the half-giant's direction. "Hagrid was incompetent."
Hagrid's face reddened.
"However," continued Umbridge in a syrupy voice, "there is a possibility, however slight, that his teaching methods have improved since I last observed him. He may be allowed one more chance to prove that he is up to the task."
"He's a better teacher than you ever were," Neville cut in. Granted, that wasn't saying a whole lot, but still, Hagrid wasn't half-bad when he had free reign to teach what he loved.
Umbridge's eyes bulged even more than usual. Then she condescendingly shook her head. "Oh, I understand. The half-giant intimidates you so that you're afraid to say that he isn't a good teacher. Why, you're trembling!"
But Neville was trembling with anger, not fear. "I'm not afraid of him! He's my friend! And I bet he'd even do a better job running the Ministry than you! What gives you the right to boss everyone around, eh?"
Gran blinked at him as if really seeing him for the first time, probably wondering how the argument had got away from her.
Umbridge giggled. "What gives me the right? Well, let me put it this way. I am a Pureblood. I'm related to most Wizarding families, you know. I fairly certain I'm even related to the Longbottoms, on my mother's side. As such, we're like one big, happy family. And I'm like your mother - the mother of all the Wizarding community. Hence, it is my duty to make decisions for the benefit of my children who don't know any better, who don't understand what is best for them."
"Oh, my dear Dolores," said Gran, taking back the reins of the debate, "you're a few years too young to be my mother."
Uncle Algie snickered; Gran was in her seventies, while Umbridge couldn't have been much older than fifty.
Umbridge's nostrils flared. "I'm pleased that you think well enough of me to call me by my first name, Augusta," she said with dogged civility. "Nevertheless, you should call me Madame Senior Undersecretary. I have worked very hard to earn my title, after all."
"Forgive me for doubting your credentials," said Gran, not sounding sorry in the least, "only I've seen no evidence that you're competent to make decisions on behalf of Neville's toad, much less all of Wizarding Britain. When you actually had children under your care, you physically abused them and failed to teach them anything practical in Defense class. You neglected them so much that one of them took it upon himself to teach the others how to defend themselves."
"He took it upon himself to engage in seditious activity, you mean!" cried Umbridge, finally raising her voice to an impolite level.
"Dolores," McGonagall spoke up at last. "I'll not have you accusing any of my students of treason. Not as long as I'm acting Headmistress, at any rate!"
Umbridge stared up at her in surprise. Then she turned in a circle, as if suddenly aware that she wasn't exactly popular with the witches and wizards who currently surrounded her.
"Very well, Minerva. I was just leaving anyway. I must get back to work. Excuse me." She rushed toward two random wizards, who moved to let her pass.
"Show's over!" announced McGonagall. "Move along." She checked her watch. "The train leaves in twenty minutes, so you students had better sweep through your dorms one last time. If you leave anything here, you'll not get it back until autumn!" She gazed directly at Neville, but in his experience, this was an empty threat. At the end of his fourth year, he'd forgotten to take home his field guide of magical wild plants. A week into summer vacation, he'd owled McGonagall about it, and the owl returned with his book the next day.
"The potion!" exclaimed Luna. "Thank you, Professor, I nearly forgot!"
Neville realized she was still holding his hand. It felt nice.
He bid farewell to his relatives and strolled back toward the castle with Luna.
"I've got to hand it to Gran, she got some useful information out of Umbridge. Between the Ministry and the Death Eaters, Hogwarts is going to need Dumbledore's Army more than ever."
"Absolutely," agreed Luna. "We should get it started again soon, with or without Harry. Perhaps you could come to my house to practice defensive spells, as soon as you feel up to it." She gazed hopefully up at him.
Neville felt warm all of a sudden (maybe it was just the sun). "I'd like that, Luna."
A/N: This chapter required some reworking to fit more closely with the book, although I did take liberties with Mrs. Longbottom confronting Umbridge.
I hope you enjoyed this disjointed behind-the-scenes look at HBP.