Summary: The pressure is continuing to mount on poor Neville Longbottom as he enters his final year at Hogwarts. No longer a child, Neville is caught lingering in between the ending stages of adolescence and the beginning of his pending manhood. Will this young wizard who was once thought to be a squib be able to once and for all prove his worth to society and gain the respect and recognition as not only a true Gryffindor but a proper wizard? Or will he be pulled under by the weight of his troubles? In order for Neville to accompany Harry in the fight against Voldemort, he has but one ultimate battle he must prevail in first- the one against himself…
Warning: This story will contain adult language, adult content, violence and sensitive subject matter. IF YOU ARE EASILY TRIGGERED you may not want to continue reading. Please, read at your own risk! You have been warned…
Author's Note: This is an AU fic which means that there are going to be some major characters who don't exist in J.K.'s world and also Dumbledore and Sirius among many other characters are still alive. I began writing this before Deathly Hallows came out so this is going to be pretty different from actual canon.
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.
Chapter One: New Beginnings
Neville Longbottom sighed and pushed his glasses back up to the bridge of his nose with his index finger. Wearing glasses had been quite an adjustment for Neville.
A couple of the professors last year suspected Neville might have had a problem with his vision in which Madame Pomfrey later confirmed that he needed further consultation in regards to his eyesight, the end result glasses.
And he didn't even get to pick them out, his Gran did and she managed to pick out the most ancient looking pair in the shop. They were thick, black and not to mention a bit too large for his face. When Neville tried to protest his Gran told him they made him look sophisticated and then went on about how his father had once worn a similar pair.
As if Neville wasn't enough of a geek already, these glasses were the icing on the cake.
The majority of his fellow Gryffindors had yet to see him or the newest addition to his face. He wondered what they would say when they saw him or if they would even notice.
Neville's thoughts were suddenly interrupted by the Sorting Hat, which had burst into its painfully loud and off-key opening song.
Quite some time ago, o'er a millennium in fact,
Four of the greatest wizards and witches began deliberating with certain tact,
An idea to establish the finest magical learning institution,
Together we can carry on a whole new revolution,
One that the wizarding world has never before seen,
But in order to do that, we must remain a team.
Hogwarts continues to grow more and more advanced with time,
And to this very day it still is and aims to be at its utmost prime,
I may seem old and worn with my stitching far from pretty,
But listen closely children, for I am wise and witty,
I know always what you are thinking and exactly what you seek,
However, I forewarn you that my words are not always very meek.
I may not look appealing and seem shriveled up with age,
But put me on your head and with you I will engage,
Your thoughts are safe with me and I will help you find,
The house that best suits you for all your might and state of mind,
Maybe you're a Gryffindor, where dwell the bravest of the brave,
With insuperable courage, grit and a hero's heart of gold, surely meant to save.
Or maybe you're a Hufflepuff, which seats those who are faithful and sincere,
Open minds and a hard day's work will get you far, so please have no fear,
Ravenclaw is next, where those with intellect and inventiveness reside,
Use your wisdom and good judgment and show it off with pride,
Finally there's Slytherin, which contains those who are bold, sly and prevailing,
Just make sure your blood is pure, otherwise you will already be failing.
Dark times lie ahead and for this you need beware,
A war is waging on and it is time for you to prepare,
You will learn how to fight but only if you dare,
There is no need to worry, for now you are safe here,
So as soon as I am finished may you all clap and cheer,
Here is to yet another delightful year.
So now hold up your glasses for a toast and humor me with a grin,
It is now finally time for the sorting ceremony to begin!
As soon as the Sorting hat was finished Neville looked up from his deluxe signed copy of Henchul Raven's 1001 Ways to Magically Improve Your Garden and watched as the first years shuffled nervously to the front of the Great Hall where they would be awaiting their turns to be placed into their respected houses.
They all looked so small, so innocent and so completely clueless. Neville remembered when he had been a first year. It seemed so long ago. He could just cringe at how terrified and clumsy he was.
He had also been a nuisance to almost everyone he crossed paths with. He had been nothing more than a shadow; a stupid, pathetic little shadow lurking behind his housemates.
He had just been so desperate to be a part of the group, to feel wanted, to feel needed and to simply belong but back then Neville had simply tried too hard to belong and only ended up turning most of his peers off to him and he became a target to many, especially to Professor Snape and Draco Malfoy.
Surveying the swarm of first years he saw wide-eyed, terrified looking faces that had gone white. He saw bright, round faces full of innocence, he saw tiny fingers nervously twirling pieces of hair and clutching tightly at robes. He saw a few nail biters and even a couple of stumblers. As he continued to watch every single one of the first years, he realized that could see a little bit of himself in each and every one of them.
"Oy, Neville? That you?"
Neville looked up to see Dean Thomas standing opposite him on the other side of the table. Dean's charming and overtly masculine presence already succeeded in making Neville feel a million times smaller. Dean clearly had Mother Nature on his side.
Dean still stood just over six feet tall, with broad, muscular shoulders. As it turns out, he also happened to have a new addition to his face, a goatee.
Following closely behind Dean, was of course none other than his best friend Seamus Finnegan, who had also experienced quite the growth spurt.
He was still the shortest boy in their dormitory but he had grown a couple of inches and his body had finally begun to fill out. He too appeared to have sprouted a stout, muscular physique overnight.
His normally shaggy, sandy brown hair had been cut to a low buzz, which suited him and while he didn't have a goatee like Dean, Neville did notice that he had a hint of stubble.
"Neville, when'd you get those?" Dean asked pointing to Neville's glasses as he and Seamus took their seats opposite him.
"Well, a couple of months ago I s'pose…turns out my eyesight isn't so good."
"Well, that's a sad blow mate," replied Seamus giving him a one over.
Neville felt his cheeks grow warm. He suddenly was overcome with the desire to sink into the floor and disappear; and this was only the beginning.
He put his book down and focused his attention on his two dorm mates.
"So how was your summer then?" he asked them.
"Great!" Seamus gloated. "Went on vacation to India and let me tell you, all the sights are amazing but nothing beats the lasses. Never in my life have I seen women so beautiful!"
"I spent the whole summer with Ginny and her family," stated Dean simply, taking a bite out of a croissant.
Neville gave them both a small smile but felt his heart drop when Dean mentioned spending the whole summer with Ginny Weasley. Neville had secretly been pining for Ginny ever since she accepted his invitation to the Yule ball in his fourth year.
To this day he still didn't know whether she had accepted out of pity or simply because she wouldn't have been able to go otherwise. It was probably a combination of both. It didn't really matter anyways because she ended up leaving the ball with Michael Corner afterward, who she went on to date briefly.
"Oh, that sounds lovely," replied Neville.
"What 'bout you mate?" asked Seamus through a mouthful of pumpkin pie.
"Oh, my summer was pretty boring actually. I just spruced up my garden a bit and helped Gran around the house with chores and such."
Neville felt like such a loser. Here were Seamus and Dean, who had sensibly spent their summers in India surrounded by beautiful women and with Ginny Weasley while the only highlights of his summer had been when his Mimbulus Mimbeltonia won first place in the Local Lancashire Exotic Plant competition and meeting the wizarding world's most famous herbologist, Henchul Raven at a book signing.
"Oy, Harry! Good to see you again. Ron, Hermione." Dean suddenly called out.
Neville slumped down further in his seat and quickly buried his face in his book.
Neville tried to make it look as though he was deeply involved in his book and that he had no other care in the world while Dean and Seamus chatted on with Harry, Ron and Hermione but really he was trying to decipher what he would say to them whenever they decided to acknowledge him.
He didn't want to muck things up and sound like a complete idiot like he normally did. He wished that he could come up with something exciting to say.
A few moments later Neville felt his book being gently pulled down. He looked up and saw himself face to face with Hermione.
Wow, was summer ever gracious to Hermione Granger. Her normally long, bushy brown hair was swept up into a rather neat bun. Her skin had a lovely golden glow and her body had continued to develop rather nicely. She had curves in all of the right places.
Neville realized he was staring so he quickly tore his eyes away from her to find Dean, Seamus, Ron and Harry all eyeing him curiously.
Harry and Ron had even appeared to have been blessed in one way or another by the summer break. Everyone but himself, it seemed, had improved for the better.
"I nefer knewf you worf gwafsses Nefille," mumbled Ron through a mouthful of chicken.
Hermione rolled her eyes.
"That's because he never did before and don't talk with your mouth full."
"Well, you see," began Neville, "I just got them a few months ago. Gran wasn't too happy about me not having perfect vision and all but now I'm near blind without them."
"What've you been up to? Anything interesting?" Harry asked him, taking a small bite of his dinner.
Neville gave a taut chuckle.
"Oh, no…nothing really. Just the same old routine, you know. Quite the bore."
'Oh, yes. What a wonderful answer! That's the perfect way to get people to stay interested in a stupid buffoon such as yourself!'
The sorting hat had already bellowed out half of the first years' names but Neville wasn't paying any mind.
Everyone else around him chattered and chuckled giddily about how fun their summers were. Everyone embraced each other and reconnected so quickly, so easily. As if they had known each other forever and had never been apart during the summer break.
Neville didn't feel as though he fit into this sort of thing. Sure, everyone in Gryffindor got on with each other pretty well but they all had at least one person that they could tell all of their secrets to, bail out of trouble and partner up with in class.
Harry, Ron and Hermione all had each other, Dean had Seamus and Lavender had Parvati, but Neville had never really had a best friend within Hogwarts; hell, he didn't even have a best friend outside of Hogwarts. He supposed he had Trevor, but even Trevor couldn't stand to be around him for more than a couple of minutes at a time.
Neville snapped out of his daze to find Hermione watching him closely, her brow was wrinkled with concern.
"Neville, are you alright? You've been awfully quiet and you haven't touched any of the food…"
"Yeah, yeah sure, m'fine," he replied, forcing a tiny grin.
"Are you sure?"
"I'm just uh, tired is all. I think I may head up to bed here in a bit."
"Bed?" Ron cut in looking towards Neville startled. "But it's not even eight!"
Neville felt another small blush creep up to his cheeks which began to grow even deeper when he saw that Ginny Weasley was approaching the table.
'Merlin she looks beautiful.'
Neville held his breath and watched as Ginny seemingly floated up the aisle and apparently, Neville wasn't the only boy watching. Almost all of the boys except for Ron had stopped what they were doing and turned their heads towards Ginny.
Her milky white skin had a healthy sun kissed glow and her freckles, which Neville had always found very alluring, seemed to stand out more than ever. Her soft brown eyes were alive and twinkling with mystery and ferocity. Her long, fiery red hair flowed behind her like a thin, velvety veil of fire. It looked so shiny and smooth.
Neville felt like a creep at times but whenever he looked at Ginny, he couldn't help but wonder what it would feel like to run his hands through her hair. He silently watched as Ginny leaned down and gave Dean a quick peck on the lips and sat down beside him.
Neville reopened his book and buried himself in it.
It seemed that anything Dean wanted, Dean got. He was a good student, making nothing short of an Outstanding in every class. He was on the quidditch team, he was good looking and muscular, had a fine personality with loads of friends and to top it all off he was dating Ginny Weasley, one of the best looking witches to ever grace the halls of Hogwarts.
Neville wondered what it would be like to be Dean for just one day or Seamus or Harry or even Ron for that matter, anyone but himself. Right now, he would just about trade places with any other wizard at Hogwarts, well except for Draco Malfoy and his two cronies Crabbe and Goyle.
In plain and simple terms, what it came down to was that Neville just didn't like himself sometimes.
He had heard a few stories of his parents' years at Hogwarts and apparently his father had been very popular and somewhat of a jock with a golden reputation of being a ladies man and his mother had been very intelligent and outspoken. He wished that he could be more like his parents but he wasn't and he never would be and Neville was finally starting to come to terms with this.
Neville was nothing special. Nothing about him stood out or set him apart from the rest of the crowd. He was practically a squib who simply got lost in the background and quickly faded from memory.
Neville poked his head up from his book to see Ginny's smiling face.
"I see you've got glasses now."
"How was your summer?" she asked.
"Fine, how was yours?"
"It was alright," she replied, taking a bite of Dean's croissant. "So, I read in the Daily Prophet that your Mimbulus Mimbeltonia won first place at the exotic plant competition in Lancashire. That's great Neville."
Neville blushed yet again and uttered a quick, unintelligible thanks.
"So," began Ginny, "are you excited about this being your last year then?"
"Oh, yes. Quite excited actually."
"C'mon Gin, we need to uh, talk…about quidditch try outs," replied Dean suddenly.
"Bye guys. Bye Neville," uttered Ginny as she gave her fellow Gryffindors a cheeky grin and allowed for Dean to lead her out of the Great Hall.
Neville watched as Ginny's flowing red hair vanished through the open doors.
"Ha, quidditch my arse! They've got plenty of time for that," mumbled Seamus to no one in particular.
Neville looked up to see what the others were talking about when he noticed that Harry too had been staring at the open doors longingly. It looked as if Neville wasn't the only one more interested in Dean and Ginny's parting than in any other type of conversation currently going on.
"Oy, Harry!" Ron began, waving a hand in front of his face. "D'you hear me? I said who do you think they got as the new defense against the dark arts professor?"
Neville looked up at the staff table and noticed that the spot normally reserved for the dark arts professor was empty. Maybe they wouldn't be having defense against the dark arts this year.
The sorting hat sang its closing song and then Professor Dumbledore proceeded to stand up and walk to the podium. He took his wand and placed it up against his throat so that his voice would be amplified.
"Students, students! Welcome to another glorious year at Hogwarts! May you now show your support by giving a warm Hogwarts welcome to your newest housemates."
Everyone stood up and began to clap as the first years quickly scampered to their house tables. As soon as the clapping died down and everyone was seated, Dumbledore continued.
"As you may have noticed we are missing a staff member this evening but he should be joining us here shortly. Your newest defense against the dark arts professor is very highly respected and overly qualified for this position but never the less I ask you all to make sure he feels right at home…"
At this Professor Snape's lip curled and his dark eyes were flashing.
"He is a world renowned Auror who has participated in the capture of hundreds of the most dangerous criminals and Death Eaters known to the wizarding world. He has traveled all over training wizards and witches of all ages and we are delighted to be having him join our teaching staff. Ah, and here he is now, not a moment too soon."
The students grew silent as the sound of doors slamming and then footsteps filled the air. A man who looked to be in his late thirties entered. He was very tall and thin and was wearing a torn, billowy black dress robe.
Dumbledore walked over and immediately embraced the man, placing both of his hands on the man's shoulders in a fatherly gesture. They continued to talk quietly amongst themselves for a few minutes longer and then Dumbledore finally led the man to the empty seat.
The man had dark brown hair which was graying at the temples and was in dire need of a cut. He also had a thick, scruffy graying beard. He wore glasses and had dark brown eyes with bags and shadows underneath. Although he appeared haggard, he was still quite a decent looking man.
Neville stared harder at the professor and was stricken with a sudden realization. He knew this man. Neville's heart began to pound in his chest as he studied the man more closely.
Harry, Ron and Hermione all turned around to face Neville at the same time with wide eyes.
"Say, Neville…" began Ron, looking back and forth between the new professor and Neville, "doesn't he kind of look like…"
"My dad," Neville finished in a whisper.
Neville felt like he was going to be sick. His head was spinning. This had to be some sort of a mistake. This couldn't possibly be…his father was insane! He and Neville's mother had been residents at St. Mungo's for the past sixteen years. Neville felt as though he was going insane.
As soon as the new professor had finished with his brief introduction, things slowly settled back down and returned to normal within a few minutes, all except for Neville that is.
So many thoughts and questions raced through his mind, he suddenly began to feel very ill. He felt as if the Great Hall was closing in on him. Nothing was making any sense to him.
"I've got to go," he quickly mumbled as he got up and hurried out of the Great Hall before anyone could question him.
The rather stunned trio turned to look back up at their new professor who was sitting silently in his seat, his eyes planted on Neville as he swiftly fled from the Great Hall.
Neville rushed up the stairs to the boys' dormitories and flung open the washroom door where he lunged towards the toilet. He held onto the bowl with a tight grip and just let everything come up in one, big heave.
He used the back of his hand to wipe the sweat off of his forehead and fell back against the wall, completely exhausted.
'You're losing it Longbottom…just like dear old Mum and Dad!'
This couldn't be happening. Neville was in a place right now where he didn't even know what was real and what wasn't. He felt as if he couldn't trust anything or anyone anymore, not even himself.
He thought he was done getting sick but he could still feel a certain heaviness sitting in the pit of his stomach and he didn't like it one bit.
He leaned back over the toilet and heaved a couple of more times. He had been so preoccupied that he had forgotten that he left the door wide open and didn't even hear when Dean had knocked on it.
"You alright there, mate?"
Neville looked up at Dean who was standing in the open doorway staring down at him. His normally pleasant face was twisted up with worry.
"Yeah, m'fine…just got a bit queasy."
"Okay, if you need anything Ginny and I are down in the common room."
"Thanks," Neville managed to reply to Dean before he shut the door and went on his way.
Neville flushed the toilet and stood up to wash his face, brush his teeth and put on his pajamas. As soon as he was finished he turned off the lights and slid into bed. It was only a quarter to eight but Neville couldn't keep his eyes open and within minutes had drifted off to sleep.
Neville woke up later that night just after one a.m.
Suddenly he remembered the sorting ceremony and began wondering if what or rather, who he had seen in the Great Hall was real or just a figment of his overactive imagination.
He grabbed his wand from underneath of his pillow.
"Lumos," he whispered holding it out in front of him.
Harry, Ron and Seamus were all sleeping soundly but when Neville turned his wand to Dean's bed he found that it was empty.
Neville slowly climbed out of bed and tiptoed down the stairs into the Gryffindor common room. He would just sit in one of the arm chairs and read some more of his book until he grew sleepy again.
He sat down in front of the fireplace, opened his book and began to read.
About a half hour passed when he heard the fat lady grant someone entrance followed by footsteps coming into the common room.
Neville poked his head up from behind the chair to see Dean stalking in.
"Oy, Neville you startled me."
"What're you doin' up so late, mate?"
"I just woke up a little bit ago, couldn't get back to sleep."
"I see," replied Dean.
Neville almost hoped that Dean would let it slip to him where he had been all this time or at least clarify that he hadn't been with Ginny but he didn't.
"Right then," began Dean. "I'm off to bed. See you in the mornin'."
"'Night." Neville called after him.
Neville looked down at his pocket watch. It was one forty-five a.m.
Suddenly it became harder for him to keep his eyes open. His lids were growing heavy and his head kept bobbing up and down. He closed his book, got up and walked over to the couch where he laid down and instantly fell asleep the moment his head touched the cushion.
Author's Note: Sorry if that was a boring start but I promise it will get better! Thanks for reading and please be sure to review! :)