Neville pushed his trolley into King's Cross station on September first every year since he was eleven. His gran never put up with any nonsense of it being "too heavy," and over the years Neville found it easier to push his own trolley. Each year he grew more excited for the year to come. Seeing as it was his last year at Hogwarts, he should have been running to go see his friends on Platform 9 3/4, exceedingly excited to learn more about magic and spend time on the grounds with Seamus, Dean, Harry and the rest of them. The key word there is should have been, because instead he stalled at his gran's car.
They had decided to take the old car because his gran didn't like being monitored everywhere she went. So Neville got to dawdle, taking forever to remove his trunk from the trunk of the car
"Hurry up, Neville," Mrs. Longbottom huffed, standing a few paces behind him. Despite, or perhaps because of, her age, Augusta Longbottom was a force to be reckoned with. One look from her was normally enough to make Neville cower. "You do not want to miss the train, young man. You have your NEWTs this year and Merlin knows it wouldn't make your parents proud if you just lived with me your whole life, not accomplishing anything because you were unable to take your NEWTs."
"Might it have occurred to you I really don't want to go to Hogwarts this year," Neville murmured under his breath.
"If you have something to say, young man, speak up," said Augusta, and it was obvious to Neville that she had sensed his unsavory meaning.
"Nothing, Gran," Neville replied as he resigned himself, giving his trunk a final tug as he moved it to the trolley. His gran gave him a look of admonishment.
"I do not deserve your cheek, boy. Now get on that train before it leaves you behind. Since enrollment is now compulsory, I'm sure whatever headmaster that the blasted Ministry put up in Dumbledore's office would be awfully unhappy if a seventh year student, who is of age, was missing." Augusta gave a huff of disgust at the situation.
Neville bent to give her a peck on the cheek before heading into the station. This was unusual for him, public displays of affection, but he was worried about his gran in the situation of the Wizarding world, even though he knew that he needn't. "Don't worry about me, Gran. I'll be relatively safe in Hogwarts from You-Know-Who."
His gran patted his cheek in return and gave Neville a small smile. "I'm not worried about him, I'm worried about the cronies he likely has teaching you. Now hurry up, we must get to the platform."
Obligingly, Neville went before his grandmother onto the platform. Once there, Neville felt the wrongness of the platform, a wrongness that had never been there before. There were families with older children who looked like they had no desire to be there. Practically nobody wanted to be there, but least of all were those who used to be homeschooled and were now required to attend Hogwarts because You-Know-Who made attendance at there mandatory. To Neville the new students' presence served only as a reminder of who wasn't there.
The golden trio, everyone called them; Harry, Ron, and Hermione, the group of best friends who were almost never seen without each other. They were not there. Nor was Dean Thomas, who had told Neville that he didn't know his blood-lines. Then there was Justin Finch-Fletchly who wasn't there. Neville knew he was muggle-born as well from the incidents with the basilisk and the Chamber in his second year. Damn Muggleborn Registration Commission, thought Neville with hostility.
On the platform it felt, to Neville at least, that nobody except the Slytherins wanted to be getting on the Hogwarts Express to the best magical school in all of Europe. Even then, only about half of the Slytherins, the ones with Death Eater families, were grinning on their way toward the train, as if they expected some kind of special treatment.
Draco Malfoy was walking around like he owned the place, his cronies Crabbe and Goyle taking care to put his trunk on the train for him. The haughty bastard, Neville thought. Seems to forget that his father was sent to Azkaban not too long ago.
Neville realized too late that he hadn't moved from the entrance to the platform during his reverie when his gran came through and ran right into him." Neville!" she cried out in surprise. She then stuck him with a glare that always made him wither.
"Sorry, Gran," he murmured was he quickly moved away from her. The imposing woman who raised him was not happy, Neville could tell from years of experience when she wasn't happy with him.
"Get yourself on that train, now. You only have two minutes until eleven, and then it will leave without you. I will see you at Christmas. Don't write unless you could handle them reading it, as undoubtedly they will." Augusta jerked her head toward the Death Eaters that were walking around the perimeter of the platform. Neville nodded, leaned down, and gave his gran a hug. This startled Augusta, for Neville never showed his affection toward her, but she hugged him back. Neville could tell that it struck her how he had gotten so tall and strong while she wasn't looking.
"Stay safe, Gran. I'll see you soon." He let her go and made his way onto the train, casting a leery look at the silent, masked Death Eaters. Neville knew he shouldn't worry, after all his gran was quite a powerful witch.
Neville boarded the train just in time, lugging his trunk behind him. Not thirty seconds had passed before the train began the trip to Hogwarts. Quickly, Neville found his way to the compartment he normally shared with Ginny and Luna, who had become his very close friends during his fifth year, the year when they were part of the DA and battled together at the ministry. He wasn't sure if either of them would attend Hogwarts, he knew of a small group of Hufflepuff seventh years, including Justin Finch-Fletchley, that fled to Greece to avoid the regime of You-Know-Who.
He needn't have worried that they wouldn't be there, after all they were both purebloods like him. In the compartment already was Luna, who was reading a copy of her father's magazine, The Quibbler. She didn't look up as Neville came in. "Hello, Nev. How was your summer?"
Neville forced a smile as he lugged his trunk up to the overhead compartment. "It was fine, Luna. Mum and Dad are fine, but Gran and I don't know if how long St. Mungo's will stay out of Ministry control. How was yours, Luna?"
Luna closed her magazine and set it face-up on the seat on her other side. "I had a fabulous summer. Daddy and I went to Bill Weasley's wedding and we went searching for Blibbering Humdingers in Romania. Daddy even let me write an article on our findings for the Quibbler."
"That's wonderful, Luna. Speaking of the Weasleys, do you know where Ginny is?" Neville plopped down on the seat across from Luna wondering where his other good friend was.
"Ginny," said a voice from the now-open door. "Would be right here" Neville and Luna's heads whipped around to see the form of a small, bouncy ginger who was their best friend. Behind Ginny was the taller form of Seamus Finnigan.
"Hey, Shay. What are you doing over here?" Neville stood to grab Ginny's trunk, which only succeeded in making her upset.
"Neville I am perfectly capable of handling my own trunk," snapped Ginny as she lifted her own trunk up next to his. Seamus cleared his throat.
"I was wonderin' if I might sit with you all today. My compartment's kind of lonely without Dean." Seamus said with his Irish lilt. Neville could see the sadness in Seamus' eyes as he talked about their missing friend.
"Oh, we don't mind," Luna replied in her dreamy sort of way, then returned to her magazine. Ginny sat down next to her, leaving Seamus to sit by Neville.
"Luna," Ginny said in a questioning voice. "Is that... Harry? On the cover of your magazine..." Everyone in the compartment's eyes suddenly found their way to look at Luna's copy of the Quibbler.
She nodded, right before having the magazine ripped from her hands by a frantic Ginny, who then began to read the article aloud.
'Harry Potter, once considered the chosen one, has now been turned over by the ministry. Ministry officials have named him 'Undesirable Number 1' as a threat to the Wizarding World. They now fail to even acknowledge that they thought of Potter (17) as the Chosen One.
'It is now all but common knowledge of why he earned himself this notorious role in the view of the government. The Daily Prophet refuses to post the truth of the ministry, not even acknowledging the fact of this abrupt change in public opinion, of course meaning that the Ministry is being run by He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. It is still our firm belief at The Quibbler that Harry is the Chosen One and we will stand by him.
'Those who believe Harry is simply on the run, trying not to be caught, are dead wrong. He is most likely looking to find the best way for us all to live in peace, and the overthrow of the Death Eaters and You-Know-Who. We here at the Quibbler believe that he, along with his two best friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger (both also 17), is trying to his utmost to stop the control of You-Know-Who in the Wizarding World. You, reader, should realize that it is not Harry who has changed, it is the Ministry view on him. And why has the Ministry view on him changed? Just ask that question yourself.
'Long live Harry Potter.'
Ginny finished in a gulp. "Luna," she questioned slowly. "Isn't your father afraid of what might happen if the ministry doesn't like what he's posting?"
Luna shrugged in response. "Daddy is doing what he feels is right and that's really what matters. Besides, Harry needs to know that he has our support."
Neville and Seamus sat back in their seats. They had all gathered around Ginny to better hear her read. "Luna, I always thought your dad's magazine was utter bollocks but hearing that, sign me up for a subscription." Seamus sat in awe. "The Prophet hasn't posted anything that honest since Thicknesse took over as minister. How did your da' get away with publishing that?"
Luna grinned. "Sometimes being underestimated has its perks. Apparently the Wizarding world doesn't take dad seriously."
Seamus grinned. "Think I could get a copy to send to my mam? She believes the Prophet's word is law and I've been trying to talk sense into her."
"Sure, I'll tell Daddy to send her a copy for you Seamus. I really do find it sad how the Ministry is using the Prophet for control. You know, when Fudge was minister he tried to take over Gringotts. Daddy didn't think we could get a minister who was much worse." Luna then reopened her magazine, found where she had left off, and resumed reading. Ginny and Neville had lapsed into silence. After a few minutes, Neville spoke.
"Gin, are you alright? I know we've never been incredibly close friends, but you seem a bit rattled." Neville spoke in what he hoped was a kind voice. When Ginny looked up, he could tell that something was wrong. "Gin?"
Ginny wiped at her eyes. "I'm fine, Nev. Just..." she paused. "Oh who am I kidding! Nevermind."
Seamus and Luna looked up from their reading, as Neville leaned toward Ginny. "Ginny, what's wrong? What's on your mind?" He questioned. Ginny opened her mouth to answer just as their compartment door swung open. Neville and Ginny were on their feet with their wands out immediately.
"Well, if it isn't a little party of blood-traitors," sneered Draco Malfoy from the doorway. Neville's hand clenched tighter around his wand. He noticed that Ginny's hand had done the same, but neither them made a move. This made Malfoy's sneer even deeper. "What's wrong, Longbottom? No Potter to tell you when it's alright to attack?" Malfoy took a step toward Neville, his own wand slipping into his hand. "I bet you would love to be told what to do. You listen to your batty old gran, after all."
Malfoy's jeering struck home with Neville as he barely realized what he was doing. One second he was standing face to face with Draco Malfoy and the next his wand was pointed at the frozen body of Draco, lying on the ground in a full body-bind. Looking around, he saw his friends' looks of shock. Neville Longbottom had vexed Draco Malfoy.
That was more satisfactory than I could have imagined, thought Neville. But I don't think I'll be doing that again anytime soon.
Addressing Draco, Neville spoke in a quiet voice. "Do not speak of my gran that way, or anyone I care about that way. You seem to forget that I've held my own against wizards who are bigger and better than you. Now run on back to your big cronies and hide behind them like you were raised to." Neville then lifted the body-bind and stepped back
Draco brushed himself off and slid his wand into his pocket while glaring at Neville. "You'll pay for that, Longbottom. Mark my words," said Malfoy, as he left their compartment and closed the door.
Once Malfoy had left, Seamus did exactly the opposite of what Neville had expected. Neville, Luna, and Ginny sat and watched as Seamus laughed his arse off. After a few minutes, he finally calmed down enough to form coherent words. "Nev... the look on his face! It was like... he couldn't... believe... you... Nev, you hexed Draco Malfoy! And... and... he left!" This of course brought Seamus back to laughter, and this time Luna, Neville and Ginny joined in.
Neville found it freeing, laughing about it, because as he looked at it, the whole situation was rather humorous. Ridiculous, he thought. I just told Draco Malfoy to get out and he listened. And I hexed him! Wait... I hexed Malfoy...
Neville slowly stopped laughing, and was soon followed by the others. He looked at them all resolutely. "I have officially lost it. I'm sending myself to St. Mungo's. I hexed Malfoy. I'm probably as good as dead, so I might as well take up permanent residency with my parents in the spell-damage ward."
Luna gave him a placating look. "Nev, he can't do anything to you. You just laid him flat on the floor in less than two seconds flat. You're stronger than him and he will learn to deal with it. Stop blushing and take the compliment. You're the Gryffindor here." Luna's bluntness made Neville see that she was right, but his raising had made him bashful.
"Harry could have done better," Neville muttered under his breath. He thought no one had heard him, but he soon found he was wrong. Ginny's face lit in fury.
"Neville Longbottom!" yelled Ginny, after a well-placed silencing charm had been applied to the compartment door. "You are not Harry! You will never be Harry! We don't want you to be Harry! And as much as I wish Harry were here, we all do, it will do nobody any good for you to compare yourself to him! You are Neville Longbottom, and from what I just saw that's a damn good thing!" Her tirade done, Ginny sat back in her seat and curled into a ball. Luna put an arm around Ginny and the four sat in an uncomfortable silence as Ginny cried silently into her knees.
Neville couldn't remember a time where he had seen Ginny cry since she had been a first year and was taken into the Chamber of Secrets. "Gin... I'm sorry, I should have thought.."
"No, Nev. I'm sorry for blowing up at you. Let's just forget it ever happened."
After a while, Ginny had stopped crying and the four got on their uniforms. Neville noticed that Ginny was deep in thought most of the train ride and had wondered what was on her mind. Knowing Ginny, it could have been anything. The only conclusion Neville was able to draw was that it was probably important.
However, obviously it was not too important as Seamus brought out a Wizard's Chess board and immediately started up a game with Ginny. For a while, everything was calm. Then, the train lurched to a stop. Everyone looked up from the game and Luna looked out the window.
"That's odd..." she declared. "We're not at Hogwarts yet..."
This statement made Neville pale. "Last time this happened, they sent dementors..." he said nervously. "But... they must know who's on the train. There's no need!"
"Nev, they're not going to send dementors. You would have felt them already," Ginny soothed all of their fears with her words, but Neville still stood up, wand in hand, in a completely uncharacteristic move.
A few minutes passed as they waited in silent tension before anything happened. Then, Neville saw movement on the other side and clenched his wand tightly. A group of Death Eaters were checking all the compartments. Behind him, he sensed the others taking out their wands as well. Neville clenched the handle, with the intention of keeping the door shut.
Suddenly, Neville realised what they must be looking for. Or rather, who they were looking for. He remembered the faces that were not at the Platform, and the fact that the Ministry had named one of them Undesirable Number 1. Neville didn't know what got into him, but he did something completely non-Neville-like.
Instead of holding the door closed, he opened it and, taking a step out into the corridor, he addressed the Death Eaters simply and boldly, "Hey, morons. He's not here."
His friends behind him looked in shock and people up and down the hall in compartments heard, and stuck their heads around their doors to see who had spoken so boldly to the Death Eaters. Neville turned a slight shade of red, but stood his ground. Everyone who poked their heads to see were not as shocked as Neville himself.
One Death Eater strode up to Neville and addressed him curtly, and with much sarcasm that shocked Neville, saying, "Many thanks for your compliance in the matter of finding Mr. Potter." Neville was then promptly shoved back into his compartment and left glaring as the Death Eater slid the door shut. However, he figured he hit the mark when, moments later, the train began to move again.
Luna looked at Neville pensively. "I did wonder if you were really a Gryffindor once, you seemed like a Hufflepuff to me. Now, I can't quite remember why."
Seamus clapped him on the back, beaming. "Good on ye, mate! Didn't know you had it in ye! Where did it come from?"
Neville grinned. "I don't rather know, but it felt bloody good!"
Ginny also grinned at him, but the look in her eyes told Neville that the wheels in her head were turning. However, the run-in had obviously put them all in oddly pleasant moods as could be told by the entertaining banter between the four regarding the intense game of chess.
After a while, a knock came at the door. Seamus waved the two figures on the other side in and in walked Terry Boot and Anthony Goldstein, Ravenclaw seventh years. Neville's brows furrowed, as he had never really talked to either of them, but Luna perked up when she saw them. "Hullo Terry, hullo Anthony. What brings you here?" she asked with a smile.
"Hey Luna," Terry began. "We were just coming to see who was in this compartment. Word on the train has it that a yell from this compartment sent the Death Eaters running."
Seamus spoke up from his spot on the floor. "Yeah, that, my good man, was Neville here. And it wasn't from inside the compartment; he walked out into the corridor! He told 'em Harry wasn' here and they went scampering." Seamus cracked a large grin, leaving out many of the details, and looked at the two Ravenclaws. "He also called 'em morons, which gave me much satisfaction."
Anthony and Terry looked at Neville, impressed. "Didn't know you had it in you, Longbottom," commented Anthony. "That took serious bollocks."
Terry gave his friend a pointed look that said, 'not to his face. We'll talk after.' Grinning at Neville, he said, "Well it looks like the Hogwarts rumor mill got something right already."
Neville scrunched up his eyebrows. "Rumors? About me?"
Again, Anthony jumped to the punch. "Well yes! Lots of people from this area keep walking around telling everyone about how bloody brilliant you were! Nobody would believe it was really you!" This earned him an elbow jab from Terry.
"What he means to say," amended Terry. "is that it was unlike something you typically do and we wanted to hear what happened from the supposed source."
Looking all the part offended, Seamus about to begin a tirade on why you shouldn't doubt a Gryffindor when Ginny pulled an Umbridge-like "hem hem," which made everyone jump a little. "Seamus, it is your turn and if you do not go soon, my pieces will consider it a forfeit." Winking at the Ravenclaws, Seamus returned to the game.
Neville turned to address the two Ravenclaws. "I'm as shocked as you are, but I guess the hat put me into Gryffindor for a reason." Terry and Anthony just gave each other pointed looks, having a conversation without words.
"Well, we really must get back to our compartment," Terry said abruptly. "Odds are Michael is trying to snog Padma, and I for one want to see that fancy spell work she has first-hand." Then, waving farewell, Terry and Anthony left the compartment and closed the door.
Neville sat dumbfounded as they were leaving. He couldn't have formed a coherent goodbye if he had tried. I probably should have thought about the long term effect of that... he thought. I mean, They could probably throw me in Azkaban for that! I'm a rumor topic and for once not about my clumsiness... What have I done...
After they had left, Ginny said confusedly, "I thought Terry was a muggleborn..."
"He is," stated Luna. "I think he faked his family tree to make himself related to Anthony or Michael. Daddy ran an article telling how to fake your tree in the Quibbler a couple of weeks ago. Lots more people are reading now than before this You-Know-Who business."
"Well whatever the case, I'm rather not surprised that word of you is getting around, Neville," Ginny added in, causing Neville to tense up.
Seamus was the one to break the tension. "So, how long do you think it'll take those two to realize they have feelings for each other?"
Luna scrunched up her face. "You mean Padma and Michael, or Anthony and Terry?"
"Eh," Seamus thought for a second. "Both." He grinned a wicked grin as the four of them started laughing.
Then Luna, in all seriousness, replied. "Terry and Anthony have been snogging each other for six months or so now, and as for Padma and Michael, that's never going to happen." This revelation led to more laughter, more to the fact that they hadn't realized that this was going on than that it actually was.
Anyone passing in the corridor right now probably thinks we've got a pack of laughing hyenas in here! Damn, it's good to laugh! Neville thought happily. Over the course of the summer, he had forgotten what it felt like to laugh.
The four friends filled the compartment with idle chatter when the conversation took a more serious turn. Outside, it had begun to drizzle. It started with the seemingly harmless story of Seamus' telling. "So I took my mam's latest copy of the damn Prophet and burned it before she read it. The woman was bloody furious! Had to go into Diagon Alley and buy her another copy, though Diagon Alley has turned to the dogs at this point and I made sure to accidently drop her money to some poor sod on the side of the street!"
Ginny laughed. "Seamus, what is it with your and fire, anyway? I mean, pyromaniac much?"
This only made Seamus' smile widen. "You see, Gin. Fire and I go back a long way..."
As he started another story, Neville interrupted. "Shay, your mum still gets the Prophet?" Seamus nodded, as he continued his dramatic retelling of first year charms class and levitation spells. "See, I was just a wee lad when it happened. All of eleven years old. I was sitting there in charms class, Halloween, learnin' Wingardium Leviosa..." But Neville had a purpose, and was not to be deterred.
"My gran stopped getting the Prophet. Said it was a bunch of codswallop. Did they ever say who the new Hogwarts headmaster is? I just assumed it was McGonagall, but it doesn't look like I'm right, seeing as she would never allow for stray Death Eaters to be looking for a student to abduct on the train."
"So Hermione was able to levitate her feather on the first try. Your brother, Ron, he hadn't been saying it right and she had to show him up. Once she did it, of course-" Seamus stopped his story mid-sentence and turned to look at Neville. "You mean you haven't heard?" Neville shook his head and braced himself. Seamus looked to Luna to explain, who in turn looked to Ginny.
"The headmaster," replied Ginny for the group. "Well... it's Snape." Neville's jaw dropped in shock. There was no way in hell that his most hated professor was suddenly headmaster.
"Completely serious," replied Ginny
"We know," chimed Seamus.
"A Death Eater! What's going to happen to DADA?"
"Well," Luna took a deep breath. "The article said it's now compulsory to take Dark Arts class and Muggle Studies. Both ate taught by Death Eaters..."
"Alecto and Amycus Carrow," added Seamus.
"And basically the entire curriculum is going to be centered on training all of us good little pure and half-bloods to be good little Death Eaters," Luna finished.
"That's bloody awful!" Neville cried in shock.
Ginny cracked a small smile. "You guys know what Ron would say if he were here."
The rest of them grinned grimly as Neville replied, "Bloody Hell."
Seamus' grin widened as he said, "Or he would say blimey and act really confused." They all chortled with laughter.
Ginny again piped up. "Well, I had this idea... but it's just an idea and I'm pretty sure that it's not very good… but it's an idea to still maintain our freedom in the face of this rubbish."
"Gin," Seamus said. "If something's on your mind, tell us. Your ideas tend to be brill."
"Well," she started, chewing on her nails as she went. "It just kinda... well..."
Just then, the train lurched to a stop and all of their faces changed from gleeful and open, to determined.
"Off to Hogwarts we go," said Neville, with no amount of glee, but endless amounts of resignation. "Let's survive this coming year, shall we?"
"Never thought the day would come when I wouldn't want to go to Hogwarts," claimed Seamus, as they all grabbed their cloaks from their trunks.
"I never thought I would be afraid to go to Hogwarts." Ginny sighed.
Luna put a hand on Ginny's shoulder. "I don't think any of us did. But we still have to and we can make the best of it. We'll stick together and make it through this year. Later you'll have to tell us about your plan, either at the feast or at breakfast tomorrow."
Protesting, Ginny shook her head. "Forget I said anything. There is no need at the moment for my idea and I don't think it's very good." This made Luna sigh in aggravation.
"No. Maybe later but… just no."
Seamus looked to Neville "Let's go?" Seamus asked with no real certainty. Neville then noticed all of them looking at him, as though the decision was his. Neville nodded, finding this role of a sort of leader not fully to his fancy.
"Let's go," he said. And the four trudged from their compartment into the throng of students making their way off the train. When he looked at Ginny, she looked like she wanted to run away. He saw as Luna gave her a small nod of encouragement, which was enough to help her fight-or-flight reflex choose as she walked determinedly behind him.
Just come on, Nev, he thought. Merlin knows we don't want to go back to Hogwarts. But we have no choice. We'll make it through the year.
Neville, Luna, Seamus and Ginny made their way through the crowd toward the thestral-pulled carriages. Neville could see the shock on Ginny's face as she saw the thestrals for the first time. They climbed into the carriage that held their friends Hannah Abbott, Susan Bones, and Ernie Macmillan, all seventh year Hufflepuffs. They all rode in silence as the carriage began to move to take them to Hogwarts.
No turning back now, thought Neville. Hogwarts, here we come.
A/N I hope you enjoyed reading chapter one as much as I enjoyed writing it! I'm trying to keep these things accurate to the book, not so much the movie so bear with me. So this story has been jumping around in my mind for over a year, and I'm so glad to finally get it on paper! Special thanks to my betas Annemarie and Suzanne! See you all next chapter!