So, yeah, I couldn't really help but think what would the 7th book be like if Neville had been there instead of Ron. I suppose it'd be very different, or maybe not, I mean essentially they would still need to search for the Horcruxes (as I decided to keep that part of the canon), but one thing is sure.
Neville wouldn't have left. No matter what. I just don't see him walking out on Harry and Hermione if they became the best friends they were to Ron.
(sequel to "built in the cold", 7th year au // They became official that very night and everything was great. But then everything went horribly wrong. Headmaster Dumbledore died and Harry decided it was better to be noble than to be happy.)
This is what it takes.
In the end, Hermione wins the argument and he gets to drink the Polyjuice Potion.
Not that he considers it a victory, the stuff is completely gross, but Neville supposes it's a small price to pay when compared with what Harry has had to deal these last seventeen years.
A Horcrux. Bloody fucking hell.
Now that is an argument he does not wish to revisit. Ever. (He can still hear the screaming, the denial, the heart-breaking sobs, the apologies, the forgiveness; he can still remember the exact moment their perfectly constructed charade fell apart.) But, in hindsight, it really wasn't that surprising, and it explained a lot (the Parseltongue, the connection).
As he waits for the transformation to end, Neville realizes his companions are arguing, yet again. He sighs, wishing they would stop pretending, wishing they would realize how utterly idiotic is to suppress their feelings in a misguided attempt to protect each other. But, Neville knows, he can wish many things; ultimately though, Harry and Hermione are the most stubborn people and if they don't want to acknowledge their mistake, then no one will be able to force them.
Sometimes, he really wants to slap some reason into them.
"I have to go, Hermione! You need me to sense the other Horcruxes," says Harry, almost snapping at her.
Hermione tries to resist, battling with her very instinct to protect him, and really, protecting Harry is their priority now, but the green-eyed boy has a point. So, she sighs resigned. "All right. But. You will do as I say, Harry. Do not go off alone and do something rash; no playing hero tonight, we're only going to see if there's something that will help on our quest."
Harry looks like he's about to complain, and seeing as the minutes are ticking by and they only have an hour before the effects of the potion fade, Neville steps in. "She's right, Harry," he says, coughing a few time, unused to having his voice sound so raspy. "We're not going to engage any Death Eater in battle."
Harry clenches his jaw but nods nonetheless and drapes his Invisibility Cloak over his shoulders. "Let's go then."
Godric's Hollow is peacefully quiet on this Christmas' Eve.
Of course it is; these people know nothing of the chaos and destruction Voldemort is leaving in his wake.
He walks through the deserted street, Hermione at his side, in silence. Harry trails them; making use of the footprints he leaves on the snow to avoid being discovered. They pass by the monument of his family and the silence turns suffocating. They don't stop, that's not the purpose of this visit, he knows, but Neville wishes they could, if only to allow Harry some kind of moment with his parents. They pass by the Potter's house and he can tell Harry's still following them because of the pained gasp echoing behind him.
Neville doesn't think he's ever admired Harry more as he does now, for he knows that, if he'd been in his place, he would've stopped in front of the monument and the house; he knows he would've collapsed, the pain too much to bear.
They stop in front of a kissing gate, though. Neville is about to ask why when he sees the graveyard, a few meters ahead of where they stand. He probably misses a cue or something, because Hermione glances behind him and nods, then turns and starts walking ahead and into the graveyard. As soon as they start wandering among the graves, he feels Harry brush past him, and he understands.
Footprints appear out of nowhere in front of him and Harry walks away.
Hermione nudges him with her elbow, pointing to their left. "Let's look around for a bit."
He nods and follows her, casting a sidelong glance in the direction he thinks Harry is. After a few minutes, Neville starts to wonder if Harry found the place he is looking for, but he can hear the crushing of snow under boots and knows Harry is stills walking around, because he and Hermione have stopped in front of a tomb with the symbol of the Hallows engraved on it. Hermione is murmuring something, but he doesn't pay attention, his focus on their surroundings.
It's how they work. Hermione is the genius of the trio, so of course he and Harry take charge of making sure no one and nothing sneaks up on them while she's working on something while away from their camp. And now that Harry is… occupied elsewhere, it's obviously his responsibility to ensure their safety.
Hermione stops murmuring and stands, only then, it comes to Neville he can no longer hear Harry's footsteps. Cursing inwardly, he grabs Hermione's arm and starts walking around. He knows they've wasted too much time here already, and they still need to find Bathilda Bagshot. Luckily, before they start calling his name, Harry takes his Cloak off, reappearing a few feet to their left. They hurry to his side, a reprimand on the tip of Neville's tongue that gets caught there as his eyes fall on the names engraved on the tomb.
Neville stops, respecting the need for Harry to do this alone (like he does every time he visits his parents), but Hermione keeps walking until she's standing right next to him. He watches as Hermione conjures up some flowers and lets Harry place them on his parent's grave. Once Harry stands up again, Hermione slips her arms around him and presses her face into his shoulder.
Briefly, Neville wonders what it will take for them to realize that this "we're just best friends" charade is on huge mistake. He has no answer. For now, though, he'll give them their privacy and be their protector.
(Neville looked up from his homework and smiled. He was in the library with Harry and Hermione. And even though it'd been two years since Harry had the fallout with Ron, since Harry chose to start spending time with him, since he became part of the new Trio, he still found it hard to believe.
Two years, obviously, fell short to the three years of friendship they had with Ron, but maybe that was why his betrayal hurt Harry so much-Ron shouldn't have doubted.
He probably shouldn't feel good about that, but it gave him two great friends and, looking at the big picture, Ron never really was a good friend.
Looking up again, Neville caught Harry and Hermione sharing private glances; he grinned. They broke the glance and turned back to their homework; Hermione's face lighted up with a gentle blush while the back of Harry's neck shone a bright red. Neville grinned again, shaking his head slightly, and resumed his scribbling.
It puzzled him to see those two still dancing around each other-the signs were all there! Neville knew, had he not interrupted them two years ago when Harry nearly drowned in the Black Lake, they would now be an official couple. But they were not, officially. Because, while he had never walked in on them kissing or anything, the slightly prolonged touches and secretive smiles and unspoken conversation and shared looks spoke of a bond much deeper than those of simple best friends. Granted, Harry and Hermione had never been simple best friends, but their level of closeness had never been quite what it was now, like… like it was imperative that they be together whenever they could-close, always so close, too close.
It was an unconscious thing on their part, he knew, because he asked Harry once and the raven-haired boy only gave him this confused look in return. He could ask Hermione, but honestly, he didn't wish to have his bollock hexed off.
Looking at his mostly blank parchment, Neville thought he should stop thinking about his best friends' love life and finish his essay, but something compelled him to look up again.
He did. And stared.
Harry and Hermione were doing it again, sharing their looks. But this felt different, like-like they came to a long awaited decision, Neville thought. And he was right, because then, forgetting about him completely, they both stood up and walked away, disappearing behind some bookshelves.
Looking at his mostly blank parchment, Neville thought he really should stop thinking about his best friends' love life and finish his essay. Instead, he stood up as well and followed them.
He stopped before rounding the corner where he saw them disappear. Most students avoided this part of the library as it had out-dated books and they all preferred the newest editions. Neville avoided it too, but of course Hermione would not. The library was mostly deserted so of course they would have more privacy back there.
So Neville was not really surprised to find them kissing. He wasn't surprised when the kissing turned into snogging and Harry pressed Hermione against one of the bookshelves, his hands getting lost under her jumper while hers tried to gain access to the skin under his shirt. He wasn't even surprised when Harry grabbed her thighs and hoisted her up onto the bookshelf, but he did thought he ought to respect their privacy. So, Neville turned and went back to their table.
Minutes later, they returned; their clothes were rumpled and their hair wilder than usual, but they were smiling genuinely, without restriction, and holding hands, so Neville just smiled back and asked Hermione to help him with his essay because he was hitting a brick wall and couldn't complete it.
They became official that very night and everything was great.
But then everything went horribly wrong. Headmaster Dumbledore died and Harry decided it was better to be noble than to be happy.
They became unofficial again before they board the Hogwarts' Express for the last time.)
The Polyjuice Potion fades seconds after they enter the house. Neville can't shake the feeling that that's some sort of sign for them to leave before something happens.
Harry follows Bathilda Bagshot up the stairs while he and Hermione are left to wander the house. Immediately, Hermione goes for the bookshelves, searching for anything that might be useful to their search, so he decides to search the other rooms.
When he finds the bloodied room there's an explosion coming from upstairs. Hermione is already up when he reaches the stairs and it's probably for the best, because she's just in time to push Harry out of the way. Neville sees the snake (Nagini) rear back, getting ready to strike again, and he acts impulsively. His arm snaps up and the Reductor Curse leaves his wand before he can't properly think, but it does its job and he has just enough time to reach their side.
Harry's wounded and he's pressing his scar, Hermione's holding a broken wand, and Nagini is ready to strike again. Neville has just enough time to grab hold of their hands.
And then he Apparates them back to the camp.
Hermione manages to flush Nagini's poison out of Harry, but it takes her time and there are too many close calls. She succeeds, but just barely.
Harry remains weak and in bed for two days, Hermione remains by his side at all times, only because Neville offers to take over the watch until Harry recovered fully. Not that she puts up much of a fight. And he doesn't resent her, really, she's his best friend and he wants the best for her.
And maybe it is his doing that she's glued to Harry's side now. Maybe it's his doing that Harry stops his attempts at keeping her at arm's length. Maybe it's his doing that they're back to being official again.
"We almost died, again. So why do you keep each other at arm's length? You two don't want to end up crying over a corpse and regret the lost time, do you? Your parents found happiness in darker times, Harry. Why can't you?"
No, not maybe. Definitely.
So, this is what it takes.
The proverbial kick in the arse. And just in time, too, thinks Neville as they watch the Sword of Gryffindor glistening under the frozen lake, because there's no time for unwanted tension and words that veil the truth.
Not when, finally, they are one step closer to end this bloody War.
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