Neville wandered down the hall aimlessly. He had just come from a rather strange studying session involving the brightest witch of the age, the strangest witch of the age, and two international phenomenons. He honestly hadn't experienced anything quite like it before. They had discussed, in detail, school work, the tournament, purple headed ploopies, the origin of thestrals, Dumbledore's clairvoyance, and the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow. The last topic of discussion had quickly diverged into subdivisions regarding types of swallows, and in the end they had agreed to disagree.
He was torn out of his musings when he caught sight of a young woman frantically scrambling to pick up the contents of her fallen bag. Neville, always the gentleman, leaned over to help her.
It was Hannah Abbot, a Hufflepuff in his year. Said Hufflepuff glanced up and stuttered slightly in surprise. "H-Hi Neville."
"Hey Hannah. Uh, what happened?" He scrambled a little for something to say to the almost-stranger in front of him.
The girl blushed even more. "I, er, was reading and walking." She turned the book she was holding towards him. 'Defense: Unusual Methods and Uses' "Defense- It's kinda my thing."
Neville's eyes lit up. "I read some of that the other day! I was using it as a reference to an essay for DADA, and it was actually really interesting. How far in are you?"
Her eyes lit up to match Neville's, "I'm just starting the section on Runes."
"Oh, that's right after the Herbology section, right?"
And the two continued walking down the hall together, discussing defense methods, the roots of a new friendship already beginning.
After bidding Neville and Viktor goodbye, the terrible trio had continued to research in the library. In an attempt to get the kink out of her neck, Luna snapped her head up abruptly... and subsequently hit a book hanging out from the shelf behind her. "Ow!" Hermione jumped at the sudden noise, dropping the books that she had been holding directly onto Harry's head, causing Harry to fall out of his seat, which knocked his chair back into Hermione, who then stumbled into the table, upturning it and taking both Luna and Hermione to the ground with it. This series of events created a rather awkward pile of papers, books, and teenagers. Luna blinked, looking around her at the mess they'd made before settling her eyes on Harry and Hermione. "So..." She started, breaking the stunned silence. "Come here often?"
They all threw their heads back and laughed. Luna smiled fondly at Harry. It was good to see him so open for once. She remembered what he had been like in the years when she had known of him, but hadn't really known him. He had always seemed so guarded, so set on not sticking out and fading into the background as much as he could. This year… he was different. A good different. He wasn't nearly as awkward accepting praise, and he stopped trying to force himself into the background. That was good- he didn't belong in the background. They were a storm. Harry was lightning, striking first, hard and fast. Hermione was the thunder, coming after and forcing people to listen. And Luna herself? She was the rain- beating down steadily with them, never letting up, never letting people forget, even after the lightning and thunder had struck. Attention was bound to be on them for a long time to come; it was just who they were. People flocked to Harry, and he had the power to lead the sheep away from the darkness. He just didn't know it yet. Well, there was plenty of time for him to learn. Plenty of time for all of them.
"Luna?" Luna thoughts were interrupted by their very subject. Harry and Hermione were were getting up just in front of her. Apparently she had gotten lost in thought. "Are you okay?"
Luna smiled brilliantly at her two friends. "I'm fine- I was just thinking about the storm."
Hermione tilted her head as Harry reached down to help Luna up. "What? Luna, it's a beautiful day outside. There's no way there could be a storm today."
Luna's smile grew even wider. "Silly, I wasn't talking about the weather!" She laughed as she skipped up to them over the mess on the floor. A few waves of their wands later, everything was back in order. Harry checked his watch. "C'mon, we're going to be late for lunch!" Luna knew that they didn't understand, they couldn't… not yet. But they would. She nodded to herself in contentment as she dragged them, skipping and stumbling and laughing, into the Great Hall. They would.
A few days later, Hermione, Harry, and Neville were sitting in the Gryffindor common room in front of the fire, Luna being at a Ravenclaw house meeting. Harry and Neville were playing a slow game of chess- neither was particularly good at the game, but they were fairly evenly matched. Hermione, Luna, and Viktor could trounce the both of them in a matter of minutes, so they prefered to play with each other. Harry was in a rather awkward position with the dragon egg sitting in his lap- unlike Hermione's book, the egg was not a convenient size for just sitting around with.
Neville was the first to break the comfortable silence. "Hey, Harry- when is the egg supposed to hatch?"
Harry's face morphed into an expression of surprise as he reached up to scratch his neck embarrassedly. "Well, I don't really know."
Nevilled arched his eyebrow. "You've been carrying around a dragon egg for this long and you never once thought, 'gee, I wonder when this thing is supposed to hatch!'?"
Harry flushed pink as he threw a nearby pillow at Neville, who dodged while laughing. It was amazing how much the quiet Gryffindor had opened up in the days since he had come running into the library to tell them... wait a second. "Hey Neville- what was it that you were going to tell us in the library before you saw Viktor?"
Neville abruptly sat up, nearly knocking over the chess board in the process. "Merlin's saggy left nut- I can't believe I forgot!" He bolted out of his seat and up the stairs to the boys' dorms. Harry and Hermione looked at each other bemusedly before turning their attention back to the young man now stumbling his way back down the stairs with a heavy glossary of underwater plants. "I found it! I found a way for you to breathe underwater and I. Bloody. FORGOT about it!" He threw the book down in front of them and hurriedly opened it to the Gs. "Gillyweed! It's just like seaweed, except it gives you gills and the ability to breathe underwater for an hour!"
Harry grinned maniacally as he stood and slapped Neville's back. "Bloody hell, mate! You were right, plants really can be wicked."
Hermione was less contained in her response. "Neville, that's brilliant! I can't believe the answer was right under our noses this entire time! Thank goodness you had that book." She said animatedly as she jumped up and hugged Neville.
Nevilled grinned sheepishly. "Don't thank me, thank Professor Moody. He loaned it to me after he saw how shaken up I was by the Unforgiveables..." Neville stopped grinning as he saw the looks that were being exchanged between Harry and Hermione. "Guys? What's the matter?"
Harry and Hermione continued to look at each other, seeming to silently come to an agreement. "Okay, Neville. We are about to tell you something that absolutely must remain a secret- no matter what."
Neville nodded, becoming slightly trepiditious at the sudden change in his friends. "I promise- I won't tell anyone unless it's okay with you."
Hermione smiled tightly, and then she and Harry proceeded to fill him in on everything- how Professor Moody wasn't actually Professor Moody, how it looked like he was helping Harry, and how despite that, they thought he was a Death Eater. While they were at it, they also told him the truth about Sirius Black and his lack of trial. When they were finally finished, Neville was staring at them, mouth hanging open in shock. Harry and Hermione glanced at each other uneasily. Would Neville believe them?
"What- when could- why would- how?" He was utterly disgusted. How could the government be so careless as to not only deny a man a trial, one of his basic human rights? And they also ignored evidence when it was handed to them on a silver platter. "What the actual fuck? How could they just ignore your testimony like that? Yes, you're underage, but Black was charged with causing your parents' deaths! Why would you- what possible motive would you, of all people, have to lie for him?!"
Harry started laughing bitterly. "A 14 year old boy is smarter than practically the entire ministry. Thank you for being you, Neville."
"I'm not certain if that's a compliment- I mean, really, look at our ministry." Neville said snarkily, starting to recover from some of his shock.
They all smiled at his comment, but then Hermione frowned slightly. "I know this is kind of off topic, but, back to the gillyweed. Where would we get any? I don't think I've seen it in any of the potions supplies stores."
Nevilled grinned. "Gillyweed isn't used in many common potions- you'd have to custom order some from one of the bigger suppliers. I actually brought down a few plant catalogues," He continued, pulling some magazines out of the back of the book. "I would personally recommend Herbology Monthly, it's a bit more expensive, but it typically has the best selection, and very good quality and delivery time, but Plants Weekly isn't bad either."
And so the teens started flipping through the magazines, chattering amicably as they did so.
The next day was Sunday, December 18- precisely one week before the Yule Ball was to take place. Neville was working on his Potions assignments alone in the library when his date to the ball, Ginny Weasley, walked up to him. Neville looked up in surprise. "Er- hello Ginny." He said, a bit uncomfortable around the pretty young girl that he barely knew. "What's the matter?"
Ginny shifted uneasily. "I, er, wanted to talk to you about the ball."
"Oh! That's right- what color dress robes are you wearing? I can't believe that I forgot to ask you that so we could coordinate."
"Yeah, about that... I can't go to the ball with you anymore." Neville looked at her in shock. Was she really doing this a week before the ball? "Mum just sent me a letter an hour ago- Bill and Charlie and Percy are all coming home to visit, so she's changed her mind and Ron and the twins and I have to go home for break. It's not fair at all- she's letting Fred and George go to the ball and come home with Percy, but she said that I was too young to have a date, and she put my name on the list to go home without even telling me first, and oh Merlin I'm so sorry." She babbled, almost in tears.
Neville blinked rapidly and sighed. "It's okay- I understand."
Ginny let out a sigh of relief. "I'm so sorry- I didn't mean to basically abandon you a week before the dance."
"It's alright Ginny- thank you for telling me so quickly after getting the letter."
Ginny babbled out another apology before she exited the library, face red with embarrassment. Nevilled sighed to himself and dropped his head to the table in frustration. "What am I gonna do now?"
Three more days had passed, and Neville was still no closer to finding a date for the ball. Every age appropriate girl who was going already had a date! Harry, Hermione, Luna, and Viktor had all been trying to find him a last minute date as well, but none of them had had any luck. He dropped his head onto the table- something that was becoming quite common for him, when someone dropped a pile of books right in front of him. Hannah Abbot sat down in the seat across from him. "I hope you don't mind me dropping in- but I'm bloody pissed right now!" She announced.
"Well, that makes two of us." Neville muttered dryly. "What's gotten you all bent out of shape?"
"My parents just sent me an owl- they won a trip to a ski resort for two, so I have to stay here for break! I wouldn't be that upset about it, but the train to go home leaves tomorrow, the Yule ball is happening in four days, and not only do I have no date, but I also have no dress robes because I wasn't planning on going!"
Neville's head snapped up. "Oh thank God! My date cancelled on me three days ago- will you go to the ball with me?"
Hannah started laughing giddily. "Yes of course-" She gasped. "I need to get dress robes- and we need to color coordinate! C'mon, the owl-order catalogues await!" And with that they quickly grabbed their things and Hannah started dragging Neville to the Hufflepuff common room.
A/N: It may seem a little weird now for Neville to get so much focus, but it'll make a lot more sense in the next couple chapters, and it really helps the plot. You'll see.
Don't forget to review- even if it's just to tell me what a jerk I've been!
P.S. I've cleaned up the first 5 chapters, and I'll sort out the rest over the next few days- *laughs sheepishly* my timelines are a couple weeks off.