Neville limped in to the hospital wing and over to the bed Madam Pomfrey kept made up for him, just in case he needed it. It had been two months since he and Ginny decided they needed to do something, and these days he spent as many nights here as he did in Gryffindor tower. Madam Pomfrey smiled sadly at him while he got himself comfortable. Nearly 1 a.m., and she was awake and waiting for him. He absentmindedly wondered when or if she slept as she brought over some potions then sat down at the bedside. Neville looked up at her in confusion. Madam Pomfrey was always kind, but she'd never taken to sitting at the bedsides of her patients.
She reached out and patted Neville on his scarred hand. "You're brave, Neville. But I'm tired of seeing you in here. It's not worth it anymore. Stop fighting. Go on to live as normal of a life as you can. This war isn't yours to fight. You should be home with your grandmother, or on the run with her. Not here at school where you've made such a nuisance of yourself."
Neville stared at her in amazement, nearly spilling the remedy she'd handed him to drink as he jerked around to face her. He hadn't held his tongue yet that night and he wasn't about to start. "That is what you think of this war? That it's over? The war hasn't even begun yet! Who's fought? Anyone from the Order? Anyone from Hogwarts? No! Because this is just the beginning. Don't you understand that? This is just beginning! And I will keep on getting myself hurt if I have to. If you'd like, I'll stop coming to you for remedies, but I won't give in to the Carrows or Snape or anyone."
Madam Pomfrey got up and began to walk away. She never turned back to look at him as she softly said, "There will always be a bed here for you, Neville. If you need it, I'll be here to help you." She paused, then continued even quieter, but still loud enough that the boy on the bed could hear her. "I just wish you could see how much better off you would be if you didn't need to come to me at all."
Neville woke up before dawn, unable to sleep well between the pain in his leg and head and neck and trying to figure out if Madam Pomfrey was right after all. Was it well-spent, all his time in the hospital wing, in detention? Was he really making a difference? He thought back to the last several weeks with Ginny and Luna. In some ways, in this real danger, they were having more fun than they did even during the days of the original D.A. And there seemed to be more and more people willing to help them out. Even Hannah Abbott, whom he'd barely talked to before a few weeks ago, had taken to regularly joining them. Her more-or-less assigned bed in the hospital wing was across from his, but tonight he was alone.
Neville stretched and tried sitting up, realizing he wouldn't be back to sleep any time soon. The stresses of leading a rebellion in the school were getting to him, and Neville was beginning to feel even more respect for Harry than he had previously. There was certainly a lot of pressure in being the one people look to for decisions, for inspiration, for encouragement. Neville never felt like he'd belonged in Gryffindor. When had he ever been fearless, been brave? Now, though, he was beginning to think that maybe bravery is only putting on a brave face, figuring out what you might do if you were actually brave, and then doing it anyway. Maybe it isn't bravery at all if you aren't scared to do it in the first place. If so, he'd proven his bravery as a first-year standing up to his friends. And now, instead of standing up to Harry Potter, he was standing in his place, trying to fill the role of leader of Dumbledore's Army, resistor to oppression.
Neville remembered back even to just earlier that day. He had been walking the corridors after leaving Muggle Studies when Michael Corner joined him, matching his pace. He began whispering, not moving his head to face him. "What's the plan for tonight? After what Alecto was saying in class today, I could do with a little bit of chaos."
He hadn't responded. But Seamus had heard and started to nag on him too. "Yeah, Neville, what should we do? I think there are a few third-years getting bound in the chains tonight. Maybe some alohomora practice?"
"Yeah," Neville had heard from behind him. Parvati had fallen into step with the group. "We've got to keep doing something, right? Not give up? That's what you keep saying."
"Well, yeah, I guess so. Midnight, then, and release the kids from their chains?" It was a concession, reluctantly given. Was this how Harry felt leading the D.A. their fifth year? What a headache, what an inconvenience it was to be in charge. Neville almost missed the days of getting overlooked and left out. But only almost.
It was that midnight trip that landed him back in the hospital wing. Seamus was right; people were itching to get back out into action, even though it had been less than a week. A few at a time, people began arriving in the fifth floor corridor. Seamus and Michael Corner came first, then the Patil twins and Luna within a few minutes. Soon, they were joined by the Creeveys, by Hannah Abbott, by Ernie McMillain, and lastly, Ginny, who had made sure everyone from Gryffindor made it who wanted to.
Neville looked around the group, quickly counted them up, and nodded briskly. Words were dangerous, and so they were whispered between classes and never spoken after curfew. As if they had rehearsed, the group silently walked together towards the muffled cries of two third-year boys. Seamus, who was getting better at spells all the time, was the first to approach, hold his wand carefully, and whisper the unlocking charm on the chains. The boys crumpled to the ground, and Hannah rushed down to them, hushing them in their attempts to thank the D.A.
"You're Hufflepuffs, aren't you?" She whispered. One of them nodded; the other was still shaking, nursing his wrists where the chains had bound him. "What did you do to get in trouble?" Hannah continued.
"Well, we, we messed up a spell in Carrows' class. I don't remember exactly, but there was an explosion, and there wasn't supposed to be." At this, Seamus stifled a small laugh. "Right after class, he took us here, said we'd be here for 24 hours for our 'ineptitude at simple hexes.'"
The other boy seemed to be coming to. "Yeah, he called us the- the- M-word, and blood traitors, AND Squibs. I think he was just hoping to hit on something close to home, but by then we already knew it was too late. So, here we are." His voice became surer, prouder, as he continued speaking. Neville took a liking to the boys; they reminded him of himself as a third year, but a moment's reflection was all he had time for. He heard footsteps and voices and the distinct mewing of a cat. "Hannah! Take these boys back to your common room, quickly! Filch is coming, and if I'm not mistaken, the Carrows are with him; run for it everyone!"
The group scattered, heading off to their three separate common rooms. Neville stayed behind a moment to vanish the chains for good measure, but that split second cost him more than he could handle. Filch rounded the corner first. "Amycus, I found the ruckus!" He shouted greedily. "Students out of bed!"
Neville knew it was too late to run. So he did the only other thing that made sense. He stepped closer. "So what if I am?"
"You're breaking curfew, Longbottom. Adequate punishment must be arranged." Filch's deranged smile just grew wider as Amycus and his sister approached.
"Leave it to us, Filch, we have a few ideas." Neville could tell by her tone that it was not a suggestion. Whatever the Carrows had in mind, it was something they didn't even want Filch watching. Six months ago, this would have rendered a Jelly Legs Jinx entirely unnecessary. But things were different now. He had a rebellion to lead.
Amycus spoke into Neville's silence. "If I remember correctly, this is precisely the place where Wayne and Jordan were hanging this afternoon. Which means there shouldn't be any reason they aren't here anymore, should it, Longbottom?"
"Well, this is a big place, isn't it. So many hallways, moving staircases, are you sure you have the right hallway?"
They didn't seem interested in a discussion about the intricacies of the Hogwarts floor plan. "Bombarda!" Alecto shouted, blowing a small hole in the stone wall behind Neville. Then Amycus grabbed Neville and shoved him up against the cracked stone wall, now sharp and uncomfortable. Holding up his wand, he pushed its tip into Neville's throat until the pressure made him choke. Alecto managed to conjure crude chains and Amycus bound them around Neville's arms, locking the ends as he had with the third-years and suspending Neville from the ceiling. "Crucio!" He yelled, once he was sure Neville was properly bound. "Crucio!" His sister echoed, for good measure. She hadn't bothered to aim, and her curse hit him on his left shin. The chains rattled as Neville fought against the curses, but he couldn't control the convulsing of his body or the pain centering itself in his leg. He managed to keep from crying, from screaming, but probably only because his throat continued to ache where he had been jabbed.
"This should teach you to be meddling in things that aren't your business, Longbottom," Amycus said as they walked away. He took a moment to be grateful that Amycus's cruelty was compensated by his lack of wit. Neville still had his wand. "Alohomora."