TEAM 13 : DISTRICT 11
Neville : Antwan
The day before the first interviews—not his own interview, mind, that wouldn't happen for another three days—Neville and every other tribute was grouped together and herded down to the same place where they'd started the tribute parade.
"Now," Their escort Glitter Odair said, "I don't know why they've set it up this way, but they're doing the interviews by District rather than team. So what your designers want to do—stop moving and listen to me—what your designers want to do is dress you up in outfits that match the rest of your team, so that even though you'll be presenting during the last day the sight of you will still make all the sponsors remember the better teammates that came before you. Now listen carefully, because I'm going to start calling out which designer you're supposed to go to!"
Neville looked around. Districts 1, 4, and 9 had already been distributed, so he was able to tell quite quickly who their designer was.
The outfits, thank Merlin, did not look too awful.
They were… odd, it was true, no doubt based off of some almost mythologically old nation's warriors, but then the designer of Team 12, which was situated beside them, had apparently taken the 'underdog' name a bit too literally, so at least they weren't that bad.
By the end of the two-hour outfitting session every Team was clearly distinguishable:
Team 18's theme was apparently 'as close to nudity as is possible'.
Team 17 had gone a very different direction and were clothed in fabrics apparently meant to resemble the armor of medieval knights.
Team 16, bless their poor souls, were dressed in what Neville could only call an 'abstract' style.
Team 15's designer had, while they were watching, changed his mind a grand total of three times during the outfitting, before finally deciding on overly complicated tuxedos. Given that he had what looked like six other backups, the Team just seemed happy he picked anything at all.
Team 14 were dressed entirely as ancient sailors, apparently attempting to draw attention to the most prominent of them, District 4's Iva.
Team 13's ensemble was apparently based on Spartan warriors, though significant liberties must have been taken because Neville couldn't imagine anyone actually fighting in what he was wearing.
Team 12 were dressed as pets, complete with furry ears and collars. It was mildly disturbing.
Team 11's designer had apparently taken inspiration from a movie Neville had never seen, so he couldn't even begin to imagine what they were supposed to be dressed as—aliens, perhaps? Giant chimeras?
All in all, Neville thought, the entire ensemble truly gave his great aunt a run for her money in terms of fashion sense. If Team 12 had had the pets they were supposed to be representing outright put on their heads then he might even have had to give them the win.
He glanced around again, this time ignoring the Capitol's veneer.
Here, more or less, was their central army—this lifetime's DA. There would be more, of course; most districts were primed for rebellion on a daily basis, and some had even gone so far as to try to figure out how to manage it successfully, but these people—these children—they would be the first and most visible.
He'd be shocked if most survived the month.
Neville watched as one of the eleven year-olds fiddled uncomfortably with his collar.
He'd had to deal with this kind of situation before, of course. When Voldemort's army had begun attacking even before he was born it was as if nearly the entirety of the wizarding world forgot they outnumbered the Death Eaters by a ridiculous margin, forgot that they'd gotten the same education, forgot that wands could be used for defense as well as offense…
They hadn't fought back. They'd hid, scared, and hoped none of the big bad scary people ever found them.
Even when they were found—or, more accurately, arbitrarily targeted—they still rarely got enough guts to try to live, to desperately do whatever was needed to survive.
The first war was won on a fluke, and one that not even Hermione—not even Dumbledore—which no one fully understood.
The second… that one was longer, but it started in much the same way. Started with witches and wizards alike turning their faces from the danger, refusing to acknowledge its existence, and then—when the danger came to them head on and they had no choice but to realize the reality—and then they'd hidden once more, locked their doors and lowered their blinds and hoped that they'd be overlooked like they'd overlooked the danger.
And they were, to some extent.
Voldemort hadn't spent much time wasting resources on the cowards of the wizarding world the second time around. He'd come straight for his greatest danger, instead—the prophecy foretelling his sole possible defeat, and the little boy that was supposed to be the hand that defeat was dealt with.
Neville had fought to protect the prophecy and failed. The failure itself was—well, he was used to that. It was his proximity to death, the fact that his not being their main target had allowed for his survival, that stayed with him.
He'd seen his great aunt not that long after, and watched as she puttered about the Longbottom Estate, completely unwilling to acknowledge the reason for Neville's bruises, for his scars.
He shouldn't have been surprised. She hadn't done anything with Uncle Algie either— "well, that's just what's done Neville. What exactly do you want me to do?"
People thought his great aunt formidable.
Neville knew the truth.
So when the Death Eaters, when the mercenaries, when Voldemort himself came knocking at Hogwarts' door?
He knew better than to hope for someone else to save the day. Everyone that should be doing that was hoping for a hero themselves, not trying to be that hero.
It was up to him instead. Up to his friends, his peers, his tormentors and confidants alike.
They, unlike the adults, should not have been expected to be soldiers.
They, unlike the adults, took up the necessary burden.
They, unlike the adults, fought back.
The battle for Hogwarts was not a pleasant one, and it was far from the beginning or the end of the war, but it was where those with the guts to do so took a stand.
Here, at least, the adults had good reason to think they wouldn't be able to make a difference, and they still tried regularly anyway.
But now they were here, and now they had a mission from Death—one that could be accomplished, if the deity was an honest one.
And at their front line, just the same as every other time Harry fought, were the children.
It wasn't ideal, of course, was far from perfect, but.
Well, every adult underestimated the power of children.
Neville already had firsthand evidence that that was folly.