A/N: I'm not JK Rowling. Dialogue in italics belongs to her, from the 2010 Bloomsbury edition of Deathly Hallows. Please accept my sincere apology for the fact that I am American, and spell like an American, but retain JKR's spellings and comma usage in anything that is a direct quote. Italics that aren't dialogue are for emphasis. This is also loosely inspired by Paramore's song, "My Heart." I don't own that either. This chapter ended up being really long, but that's unsurprising, I suppose, considering the quotes I've borrowed cover the space of about 150 pages of Deathly Hallows.
Seamus bolted through the entrance to the Room of Requirement, hastily shutting the door behind him and struggling to catch his breath. He sank down against the wall and Lavender started to get up to go after him. She seemed to notice the blood at the same time as Neville did and ran, one hand over her mouth, to the washroom. Padma walked over to him instead, carefully taking his mangled left arm in her hand and surveying it and the gashes on his forehead. "Which Carrow?" she asked.
"Neither, actually. This was the work of Crabbe. I'm just thankful he didn't manage to get hold of a Carrow before I escaped. Wish I could've done more damage, but didn't think it was worth it. I knocked him out and ran back here instead."
Padma nodded sympathetically as she bandaged his arm. "Was he trying to figure out where we are again?"
"'Course he was. Seems all they care about these days." He winced. "Try to be a little gentler, would you? My arm had only just healed from last time."
"Sorry, Seamus. But if I don't do it right it may not heal at all." He sighed, but let her go about her work.
Meanwhile, Ernie and Terry came back through Ariana's portrait, hands full and more food floating in front of them. "Dinner's ready!" Terry shouted.
Students around the room jumped off of hammocks or couches to the dining room table they had finally decided to add just a few days before. Ernie sent a large pot of soup and a tray of meat to the table while Terry set their plates in front of each chair. Neville took his usual seat between Hannah and Anthony and sighed. He was appreciative for all Aberforth had done for them, but it didn't keep him from missing some of the more elaborate meals provided to them in the Great Hall downstairs.
Silence fell among the chattering students as they began to focus more on eating, but Seamus looked up from his meal to say, "I'm tired of all these covert operations to remind people we're still around. Those of us who go almost always get caught. And those of us who don't... Susan, when was the last time you left this Room?"
She looked up nervously from her meal. "The day we rescued Hannah," she said, meekly. "So, nearly two weeks, I guess."
"Exactly! So when are we going to do something? When do we get to tell people we're in a war, Neville?" No one answered; people looked awkwardly down at the food in front of them, some casting sidelong glances toward Neville.
"You know that isn't up to me to decide, mate. It all depends on Harry-"
"And what if Harry never comes back? What then? Do we just live in this room as refugees for the rest of our lives? What if Aberforth gets tired of feeding us? We're going to have to do something."
"Okay, you're right. We will have to do something at some point. What is it now, end of April?"
"First of May," Terry Boot said. "Aberforth mentioned something about it being warm for May as we gathered our food."
"So school will be out in less than two months. We're all of age, so once everyone is gone, if we don't fight, perhaps we could Apparate out of Hogsmeade one night?"
"That won't work, mate," Ernie added. "They've added a curfew. And a Caterwauling Charm- anyone so much as steps outside after hours and an alarm goes off that's bloody painful to listen to. Causes all the Death Eaters to go after them. Aberforth was complaining about how it had gone off last night due to a stray cat. Caused a real riot outside, since it was past midnight."
Neville paused to think. "Well, we could Apparate directly out of the bar, right? I mean, I know it's not polite, but it's possible." Murmurs of assent spread around the table. "Okay then. We stay until school's out, and then we escape."
"Why don't we just leave now?" asked Michael. "We aren't doing much good here. We just keep getting bloodied up."
"We have to be here if Harry comes back. We're the Army! We have to fight if there's a fight." Neville was assertive and sounded far more certain than he felt. But Harry had to come back, didn't he? Surely he would be there in the end.
After the dishes were cleaned and sent back to the Hog's Head with Parvati, the evening was passed in a tense silence, opposition obvious between those who wanted to leave immediately and those who were comfortable waiting it out. Some played Exploding Snap in a corner, but Neville was curled up in his hammock, a book in hand. Even Hannah wasn't willing to speak to him at the moment; Neville didn't think she was quite upset with him, just that she hated the tension in the room and refused to make it worse.
It was only his solitary occupation that had Neville glancing around the room more than usual, and because of it, he was the first to notice Ariana walking back into her frame. As she spent almost the entire time in the Hog's Head, so seeing her appearance mere hours after dinner was strange. Neville went up to see her. She smiled at him and beckoned him back into the passageway to the pub. "Um, everyone?" he said, a bit unsure of himself. "I don't know what Aberforth wants, but he's sent for me. So I'm, um, leaving now."
His classmates looked up, nodded, and went back to their preoccupations. He winced as he began walking down the tunnel. His fight with Alecto a few weeks previous had left him with a limp in his leg, and he had been careful not to walk on it too often, but Ariana's presence in the late evening was too much a curiosity to send someone in his place.
The walk took about five minutes, but he could see into the bar with about forty-five seconds to go. Aberforth seemed to be lecturing three other smaller figures. If he didn't know any better, he would say- but by that point, he was at the mantelpiece and absolutely certain. "I knew you'd come! I knew it, Harry!"
Without much entertainment besides the wireless that Aberforth had lent them, the D.A. had listened to every broadcast Lee Jordan hosted, keeping up on the rumors of what Harry was doing. Neville shrugged off their well-intentioned questions about his scars and life at Hogwarts in favor of finding out how much they heard was true. The trio persisted though, and while never lying, Neville did his best to shrug off the consequences they'd been facing. It wasn't like they were fighting dragons, after all, and Neville didn't want it to seem like he was trying to upstage them.
Soon, they arrived back into the Room of Requirement, and as Neville pushed through the door, he said to a crowd of disinterested people, "Look who it is! Didn't I tell you!"
Harry had only poked his longish, disheveled hair through the passage before the shouting began. "HARRY!"
"It's Potter, it's POTTER!"
The members of the D.A., who were playing half-hearted games when he returned, were crowding around the three of them like they were some sort of Christmas present come early, or Quidditch stars, or something more than three of their classmates who had been missing for the better part of a year. The swarm of people stopped and the three of them began to take in the room, looking confused. "Where are we?"
Neville's excitement shown through his voice as he spoke, proud of all he had accomplished here. "Room of Requirement, of course! Surpassed itself, hasn't it?"
Harry caught the others up on what he'd been through, the accuracy of the Potterwatch broadcasts, but seemed exhausted by something, and like he was trying to get away. Neville had already charmed the D.A. coins to say that Harry was back and ready to fight, but he was beginning to second guess his decision. Seamus was the one to speak what they all had been thinking. "What are we going to do then, Harry? What's the plan?"
"Plan? Well, there's something we - Ron, Hermione, and I - need to do, and then we'll get out of here."
Neville's jaw went slack. It was the last thing he expected to hear from the person who wanted You-Know-Who gone most. He was so certain there would be a fight that his brain had to adjust to properly process the words. "What d'you mean, 'get out of here'?"
"We haven't come back to stay. There's something important we need to do -"
"What is it?"
"I-I can't tell you."
Neville wrinkled his eyebrows, furious at his old mate, who was being as secretive as always about things. Harry had to be here to fight! He had felt it in his blood, that something was happening, that it would all be over soon. Harry wasn't making any sense at all with his exclusion. "Why can't you tell us? It's something to do with fighting You-Know-Who, right?"
"Then we'll help you." It was strange. All along, all these months, he felt like he was just doing what Harry would do in his place, just taking over where his mate left off. But it seems like even if Harry were there, he would hide away from the rest of the Army, not pull them together as Neville had. Inside him, pride and bitter anger fought for control of his emotions. Everyone else in the room was nodding their assent, standing by Neville- their leader- now that he had been proven right about Harry coming back.
"You don't understand. We - we can't tell you. We've got to do it - alone."
"Why?" There was genuine confusion in Neville's voice. Why would he be masochistic enough to face You-Know-Who alone?
"Because..." He paused; thinking seemed to be far more difficult than it should be. "Dumbledore left the three of us a job and we weren't supposed to tell - I mean, he wanted us to do it, just the three of us."
Neville's voice grew in exasperation the more he spoke. "We're his Army. Dumbledore's Army. We were all in it together, we've been keeping it going while you there have been off on your own-"
"It hasn't exactly been a picnic, mate," Ron said.
"I never said it had, but I don't see why you can't trust us. Everyone in this Room's been fighting and they've been driven in here because the Carrows were hunting them down. Everyone in here's proven they're loyal to Dumbledore - loyal to you." The events of the past few months came rushing back to him as he spoke, and he knew it was true. Every single person in the room was willing to lay down their life for Harry or Dumbledore or a chance at seeing You-Know-Who fall. Every single person in the room knew what was at stake; they'd already proven their loyalty. None of them remained unscarred.
Harry sighed. "Look," he began, but the tunnel door had opened, and Luna and Dean appeared.
"We got your message, Neville! Hello you three, I thought you must be here!" Neville grinned at the sight of Luna doing so well, and noticed how they released hands just before coming into the room. Seamus was already hugging Dean, but Harry was staring at the pair, confused.
"Luna, what are you doing here? How did you-?"
"I sent for her," Neville said before Luna could reply. He held up the fake Galleon proudly. "I promised her and Ginny that if you turned up I'd let them know. We all thought that if you came back, it would mean revolution. That we were going to overthrow Snape and the Carrows."
"Of course that's what it means. Isn't it, Harry? We're going to fight them out of Hogwarts?" Luna's voice was cheery as she spoke.
"Listen, I'm sorry, but that's not what we came back for." He kept talking, but Neville couldn't take it in. This whole time, his hope had been on Harry. Neville knew he could lead for the interim, but when it came to overthrowing Hogwarts, he could never initiate that on his own. Harry was the leader, Harry was in charge, Harry was supposed to lead this rebellion. What would a battle be without him anyway?
People in the room were shouting at the trio, who justified themselves right back, without ever giving a concrete reason for why they were there. Neville found himself getting more and more frustrated, especially as more members of the D.A. crowded in. Harry turned to face him. "You've got to stop this! What did you call them all back for? This is insane-"
Before Neville had a chance to justify his actions, Dean took out his Galleon. "We're fighting, aren't we? The message said Harry was back, and we were going to fight! I'll have to get a wand, though-"
"You haven't got a wand?" asked Seamus.
Ron had got the attention of his two best friends and they were whispering to one another. Neville felt he'd made a fool of himself, calling everyone back just at the sight of Harry, an assumption that they would fight. After the year he'd had, he knew that in Harry's shoes, he would be issuing a call for immediate action. Since he thought himself as just filling in Harry's shoes for the year, Harry's reluctance to fight was incomprehensible to him now. Just then, Harry spoke to the whole room, something about how the war against You-Know-Who depended on them finding Ravenclaw's lost diadem. It seemed ludicrous, but Harry usually knew what he was talking about, and Neville was glad to finally step down from leadership for a moment.
But then, as Harry was ready to follow Luna to Ravenclaw's tower, Harry turned to Neville for the second time in minutes. "How do we get out?"
"Over here," he said, showing the pair to the small cupboard. "It comes out somewhere different every day, so they've never been able to find it. Only trouble is, we never know exactly where we're going to end up when we go out. Be careful, Harry, they're always patrolling the corridors at night."
"No problem. See you in a bit."
Harry and Luna left the room and its growing number of occupants turned to him expectantly. "So Longbottom, what's the plan?" Fred asked.
"Well I suppose we get the rest of the Army here, and the Order of course. Regardless what Harry says, I have a feeling we'll be fighting tonight. And we could use all the help we can get. In the meantime... I guess we wait for further orders. Wait- Ron, Hermione, where are you going?"
"We just remembered something- could be important. It's in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom," Ron said, taking Hermione's hand and helping her out.
"Right, you two," Seamus called after them, when they were sure not to hear. "We know you're just finding a place for a good snog!"
"Our little Ronniekins, all grown up, eh Fred?"
"That's right, George."
People kept coming through, and Neville was starting to feel a little sorry for Aberforth. They were on friendly terms, certainly, but Neville found him too blunt, too gritty to develop much of an attachment to him. He could imagine the inconvenience that it was to become a bus stop on the way into Hogwarts, and he made a mental note to personally thank Aberforth for his generosity when he got the chance. Neville didn't even recognize half the people coming in the room anymore. A tall black man accompanied his old professor Lupin, and he recognized some of the older members from the Gryffindor Quidditch team, though he didn't know their names. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley came as well.
The room was full of reminiscing, catching up between those who had been too scared to keep in contact over the past year or were secluded in safe houses that prevented all but the most necessary of communication. It was buzzing with almost palpable excitement, but Neville simply stood in the middle, taking it all in. Suddenly there was noise from the staircase as Harry and Luna came back inside. Everyone turned to look at him, but Lupin was there at the bottom of the stairs and spoke to him as he approached. "Harry, what's happening?"
"Voldemort's on his way, they're barricading the school - Snape's run for it - what are you doing here? How did you know?" Neville stopped to take in Harry's list. So much had happened in so few minutes. It really would all come down to this.
"- the DA let the Order of the Phoenix know, and it all kind of snowballed," Fred was saying.
"What first, Harry? What's going on?"
"They're evacuating the younger kids and everyone's meeting in the Great Hall to get organized. We're fighting."
Neville was neither the first nor the loudest to shout happily in response, but he felt the adrenaline rushing to fill his veins as the crowd pushed toward the staircase to go back into the main castle. He wasn't sure where Hannah was, so the moment he was back in the main part of Hogwarts he looked around for her, but the hallway was already deserted. He hoped she was with Susan or somebody, wondered if he had already seen her alive for the last time. But he didn't let the thought linger. It seemed the fight hadn't started yet; Hogwarts was protected and they were doing everything possible to keep the younger students safe before the castle would become a battle site. He arrived in the Great Hall and smiled at Hannah, who sat by Susan at the Hufflepuff table, but sat down with the Gryffindors. Professor McGonagall filled everyone in on what had happened, but soon she was interrupted by a voice that seemed to penetrate every space in the castle.
"I know you are preparing to fight. Your efforts are futile. You cannot fight me. I do not want to kill you. I have great respect for the teachers of Hogwarts. I do not want to spill magical blood. Give me Harry Potter and none shall be harmed. Give me Harry Potter, and I shall leave the school untouched. Give me Harry Potter, and you will be rewarded.
You have until midnight."
A silence spread over the room, swallowing up the screams from bewildered students who didn't recognize the voice. It was broken by the shrill voice of Pansy Parkinson, who stood up at the Slytherin table and pointed at Harry Potter. "But he's there! Potter's there! Someone grab him!" she shrieked, and like everyone else at the Gryffindor table, Neville stood up to face Pansy. He watched with pride as the Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs rose to do the same thing. He held his wand out at her, proud to know where his school stood after all they had been through.
A battle plan was decided on, and Neville followed Professor Sprout to gather the best plants for waging battle with. He was proud when he suggested Mandrakes and she looked at him and beamed. "Yes, of course! But don't forget to grab earmuffs."
Soon, far sooner than he wished, the defensive spells cast around the castle had been penetrated and the battle had begun. He stayed on a tower, casting plant after plant out of a window, floating them along with his wand and aiming for the rows of approaching Death Eaters. From afar, the battle left Neville with a rush of excitement. He found this sort of ambushing - very little risk, and such easy targets - wonderful. But once most of the Death Eaters were inside, he knew it was time to go down into the heart of the castle and face the battle up close. It was time to duel. He couldn't help thinking, with a rush of vengeful pride, that he hoped to run in to Bellatrix.
Instead, though, he found himself in dueling Death Eaters he'd never heard of, firing curses at them, narrowly avoiding the Unforgivables being shot his way. He half-wished they'd taken their confinement in the Room of Requirement more seriously, done more dueling between them, but it was on his own shoulders to have suggested it, and the idea had never crossed his mind until now. He didn't know many jinxes besides those that had been performed on him, but it turned out he had underestimated the power of a well-placed Jelly-Legs Jinx. It threw his target off guard long enough for Neville to Stun him, take his wand, and give it to Dean, who was trying and failing at some sort of wandless magic, Luna by his side, "It's okay, Dean. I'm sure you'll be able to do it at some point. But it looks like Neville has an extra wand now. I suppose it's for you. Perhaps you might want to open your eyes."
Neville smiled as Dean un-scrunched his face and looked at Neville gratefully. He took the wand and began firing his own spells. Thankfully, the wand responded to him well and they kept moving.
Time was strange as they fought. Each duel seemed to be in slow motion and mere seconds felt like hours as they fought one on one. But the night itself passed as one blur, individual attacks melding together and remaining one mashed-up memory, adding to it every moment. He tried his best to be aware of people around him, the locations of allies if they were to need assistance, places where enemies might come and attack, but it was difficult not to get tunnel vision, to only see the masked man he was currently fighting.
"Hello, dearie! Need a hand?"
Though he recognized her voice in an instant, Neville refused to turn around until he knew he had defeated the Death Eater in front of him. "Gran! Good to see you! How did you hear?"
"I have my ways. Furnunculous!" The Death Eater in front of her broke out in boils. Augusta Longbottom smiled then turned her attention back to her grandson. "Have you been keeping busy this evening, then?"
"Definitely. I was helping Professor Sprout with using some plants as warfare. You should have seen the way some of them were caught in the Devil's Snare! And they kept struggling! It's like they didn't even know what it was. Made me laugh some, honestly. Petrificus Totalus!"
"Oh Neville, I'm so proud of you! So like your parents. You've been leading the D.A., I hear. Miss Abbott seemed impressed when I spoke to her earlier."
"Yeah, I've been leading it. Didn't feel I had much a choice, with Harry on the run. Protego! Oh, and have I told you? Hannah's my girlfriend. Stupefy!"
"Is she now? A lovely girl, she is. A great choice." With a momentary relief from the onset of Death Eaters, she took a moment to squeeze him close and pinch one of his cheeks.
Soon, but after far too long, Voldemort's voice took over the castle again. They had an hour, he said, to treat the injured, to do what they could with the dead. Oh Merlin, there were some who were dead. Neville, who had been on the outskirts of the battle, away from the Great Hall, felt queasy to think of who he might see there. Not Hannah, he thought. But then ran through the whole list of his friends. Who could he possibly do without? But almost unfeelingly, he followed his grandmother to the Great Hall, began assessing bodies. He found Padma, who was injured but still working, and did what he could to help her. Then with her assistance, they turned to more to help.
"Let's split up, Neville. I think we'll get more done, and I think they could use some help with- with the-"
He couldn't blame her for not being able to say the words. There was something so impersonal, so inhuman, about calling friends and allies "bodies." But as he was kneeling over the unknown body of a member of the Order, he heard his name.
"Blimey, Harry, you nearly gave me heart failure!" No one was there a moment ago, but Harry had appeared, no doubt making use of that Cloak of his. "Where are you going, alone?" He had a feeling that Harry would want to give himself up. Especially looking around them now at the dead.
Harry shrugged off Neville's suspicion, promising him that he just had something to take care of. He didn't believe him for a minute, but took Harry's request - his last request? - seriously. "Kill the snake?"
"Kill the snake," his friend affirmed.
Neville tried once more to make sure Harry was doing all right, but soon he was on his way again. There wasn't much work left to do in the room, though less than half of the hour had already passed. People gathered around each body: co-workers, teachers, friends, loved ones. Not a single person was left unattended and Neville felt a wave of emotion at the gravity of it all. He recognized Evie Thompson's mother from the young girl's funeral. She was hugging the limp body of a woman who looked just like her. No. Not her sister, too.
Nearby, Seamus had grabbed Padma and pulled her to another body, this one still moving, moaning slightly in pain. Neville walked toward them in time to see the slashes across Lavender's face. "Fix her, Padma!" Seamus cried. "She has to be okay!"
"I'm trying, Seamus! Will you let me work?"
Further on was a group of Weasleys. "Fred..." The agony in George's voice was apparent from across the room. He was openly weeping over the body of his brother. Percy, Neville noticed, had his hand pressed firmly on George's shoulder, tears streaming down his own face.
With nothing left for him to do, Neville sat down at an unoccupied part of the Gryffindor table. In doing so, he realized just how exhausted he was. Awake for more than eighteen hours, and so much had happened during the last few, he was ready to lay down his head to sleep. Just as he was about to close his eyes, his head resting on his elbow, the high, eerie voice of Voldemort once again took over the room.
"Harry Potter is dead. He was killed as he ran away, trying to save himself while you lay down your lives for him. We bring you his body as proof that your hero is gone.
"The battle is won. You have lost half your fighters. My Death Eaters outnumber you and the Boy Who Lived is finished. There must be no more war. Anyone who continues to resist, man, woman or child, will be slaughtered, as will every member of their family. Come out of the castle, now, kneel before me, and you shall be spared. Your parents and children, your brothers and sisters will live, and be forgiven, and you will join me in the new world we shall build together."
No. Neville refused to believe that Harry Potter was dead. And if he was, if he was, it was not because he ran away. If Neville was sure of one thing, it's that Harry would never try to save himself at the expense of others. Voldemort had called them outside, but no one was moving. Like himself, they all seemed to be in shock, unwilling to believe that the Boy Who Lived would die. As far as he knew, the snake was still alive. And Harry had made it clear that the snake needed to die for Voldemort to be defeated. But if Harry was gone- maybe the war really was over. It had only taken hours for everything to be lost.
"Come," Voldemort repeated, and slowly, as though sleepwalking, the survivors began to drag their feet outside.
As they gathered in the courtyard, Professor McGonagall, who was near the beginning, screamed, "No!" with far more emotion than Neville thought she was capable of. And soon her anguish was echoed throughout the crowd.
"Harry! HARRY!" Ginny cried. Neville wanted to go to her, to comfort her, but he was paralyzed, staring at Hagrid and the limp body in his arms.
"SILENCE! It is over! Set him down, Hagrid, at my feet, where he belongs! You see? Harry Potter is dead! Do you understand now, deluded ones? He was nothing, ever, but a boy who relied on others to sacrifice themselves for him!"
"He beat you!" Ron's voice seemed to break the charm of the silence, and other voices of dissent joined his, though Neville wasn't sure what Ron meant.
"He was killed while trying to sneak out of the castle grounds, killed while trying to save himself-"
That was all Neville could take. He pushed his way forward, wand out, charging at Voldemort. Harry Potter was not the kind of person to do that, and the pleasure in Voldemort's voice was too much. But he wasn't quick enough and before he'd taken three steps, he was disarmed and lying on the expanse of ground that separated the two groups.
"And who is this? Who has volunteered to demonstrate what happens to those who continue to fight when the battle is lost?"
Neville did not miss the gleam of happiness in Bellatrix's eyes when she recognized him. "That is Neville Longbottom, my Lord! The boy who has been giving the Carrows so much trouble! The son of the aurors, remember?"
"Ah, yes, I remember." Neville tried to ignore him and began to pull himself up. His wand- where was his wand? As he got onto his feet he saw it, tossed about five feet in front of him. That was five feet too close to Voldemort and he made no attempt to recover it. "But you are a pure-blood, aren't you my brave boy?"
Brave? Even Voldemort was calling him brave? "So what if I am?" he nearly shouted. So what if I am brave, he thought. After all, I'm a Gryffindor.
"You show spirit, and bravery, and you come of noble stock. You will make a very valuable Death Eater. We need your kind, Neville Longbottom."
"I'll join you when hell freezes over! Dumbledore's Army!" He raised a fist in the air and had to keep himself from beaming at the chorus of shouting from behind him.
Voldemort met his shouting with a measured tone, almost a whisper. His words were all the worse for their quiet. "Very well. If that is your choice, Longbottom, we revert to the original plan. On your head, be it."
Behind him came the sound of breaking glass, and the Sorting Hat flew past his head and into Voldemort's waiting hand. "There will be no more Sorting at Hogwarts School. There will be no more houses. The emblem, shield, and colours of my noble ancestor, Salazar Slytherin, will suffice for everyone, won't they, Neville Longbottom?"
Using his wand, he forced the hat onto Neville's head. For a split second, he felt like a first year again. There he stood in front of everyone, the Sorting Hat coming down over his eyes like before. But the fear, the clumsiness, the awkwardness, they were all gone. As Voldemort had proclaimed to the crowd that he was being made an example of- which Neville found was nothing new, after the Carrows- he realized he was completely unable to move. The Body-Bind Curse made no sense- until he felt the Hat inflame.
Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion. And with the willpower he had learned to use to fight off the worst of the Crucios, he shook off the Body-Bind Curse and threw the hat on the ground in front of him. It made a clanging sound and he reached down and into it, trying to see what could possibly have appeared in the split second since it left his head. Around him there was only chaos. The war had broken out again. But his world contained only himself, the hat, and whatever it contained.
He reached inside.
The thought had barely registered in his head- It's a sword, Neville!- before he had a grasp on its jewel-encrusted handle. Nagini lay in front of him. There was no way. It was just too simple. But in one swing, Nagini's head was flung in the opposite direction of her body as both collapsed to the ground, pooling in her own blood.
Harry's body was gone. But now was not the time to look for it, to mourn his friend. He followed the battle inside, deflecting curses, and amazed at how even the straightest shots from the Death Eaters seemed to miss him, miss his friends. Every curse and jinx they sent out, however, seemed to be on target. It was as if their grief over losing Harry was fueling them, making their magic better, stronger than before.
But then, suddenly, Harry was there in the room. Harry and Voldemort circled each other as Harry explained everything that had happened. In Neville's mind, the pieces seemed to come together one by one. But still, despite everything his friend knew about Voldemort, he called him by his given name and begged him to feel remorse.
When he didn't, it was only inevitable that he would fall, his own curse backfired to end him. The morning sun was beginning to fill the room. The clouds visible on the ceiling were tinted pinkish orange, and everything was really over. They had won. In a corner, Seamus held Lavender, who still seemed to be shaking from pain, but she was alive. Molly wouldn't let Ginny away from her sight. Harry went off to be by himself. It was all a breath of fresh air after a sleepless night, but Neville was only in the mood for the company of one person.
She wasn't in the Great Hall, so Neville assumed she had slipped out to take a walk near the lake. After all, her mother was an early casualty in the war, and her father had left the country to be safe. Hannah had no one else, so Neville turned to his Gran, gave her a quick kiss on the cheek, and said, "I'll be right back."
It had been weeks, maybe more than a month, since he'd been outside like this. He could hardly count the last few minutes of battle. The morning breeze chilled him some and he wrapped his arms around himself to keep warm. Hannah was where he expected her, sitting on the west side of the bank, watching the sun begin to reflect over the water. He reached down and gently squeezed her shoulder.
He was at a loss for words as she turned around to face him, and she seemed to feel the same way. Her eyes were on the verge of tears, but Neville wasn't sure if they were relief or sadness or something else entirely. He realized his own eyes felt watery. Not sure what else to do, he pulled her close and held her, kissed the top of her hair. She rested her face against his chest. "Your heart; it's still beating," Hannah said. "For a while, I wasn't- I wasn't sure I would still have you."
Neville placed his hand on her chin and lifted it up so he could kiss her. "For a while, I wasn't sure you would still have me, either. But I'm here. And my heart is yours."
A/N: And so that is it. This is the end. If you've been following and haven't had a chance to leave a review yet, I would love for you to drop me a quick line, let me know why you liked it and followed it. If you have been reviewing, why stop now?