Chapter 1 : I'll Never Forget
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Author's Note: This came to me in a dream I had last night. Please review and let me know what you think!
I'll Never Forget
Neville Longbottom was completely lost, both physically and emotionally. He was trying to get to Herbology class, but the moving staircases kept guiding him in totally the opposite direction in which he wanted to go. He was exhausted and frustrated, and at that moment he gave up.
He slumped down at the bottom of the stairs, defeated. He placed his head in his hands, thoughts rushing at him a mile a minute. The more he tried to pull himself together, the more he felt his control slipping.
He was a disgrace to Gryffindor, a disgrace to Hogwarts, and above all, a disgrace to his parents. He was a klutz, a wreck, and a fool. He had no bravery whatsoever in him, and he felt nothing but pure and utter shame.
Last night, Sirius Black had allegedly broken into Gryffindor Tower and ripped apart Ron's curtains with a knife, and all because Neville had been an idiot. He'd accidentally left the passwords to the tower where anyone could have picked them up, and because of this, lives could have been in danger. Professor McGonagall's cruel reprimands struck Neville like an axe to the gut, and he knew that she was right. He had been foolish and stupid. Leave it to Neville to mess everything up, he thought bitterly. I'm a shame to the name of Longbottom.
Tears fell down his face, and he couldn't stop the sobs from racking his body. He couldn't do anything right, not even get to his favorite class. He'd never achieve anything, never get anywhere in life. He was nothing but a stupid idiot.
Suddenly, he heard footsteps coming towards him. He tried to scrub the tears away from his eyes, to stop the sobs from shaking his frame. He didn't want anyone seeing him like this.
The footsteps came closer, and a figure stopped beside him. He crouched down so that he was on Neville's level, and placed a hand on his shoulder. Warm gray eyes looked into his own, and Neville looked up into the concerned face of a Hufflepuff prefect and the school heartthrob, Cedric Diggory.
"Are you okay?" the older boy asked in a gentle tone. "What's wrong, are you lost?"
"Yeah," said Neville, his voice shaky.
"Where do you need to go?" asked Cedric. "You're Neville Longbottom, right?"
Neville felt dread course through him. He hated the sympathetic looks people always gave him when they realized who he was. The fate of his parents had spread like wildfire throughout the wizarding community, and he was afraid that Cedric would be just like everyone else with the "I'm so sorry" nonsense. "Yeah," he mumbled. "Cedric Diggory, right?"
"Right on," said Cedric, looking at Neville with a sincere smile. "Come on, I'll help you. Where is it you're going?"
"Herbology," Neville said miserably, slowly getting up from his sitting position.
""right then, let's go," said Cedric, beckoning for Neville to follow.
As they walked, Neville took a good look at the Hufflepuff. He felt gratitude sweep over him; Cedric wasn't like everyone else at all. He hadn't said one word about his parents, he hadn't even given him that sympathetic look. Instead, he was walking with him like he was just another Hogwarts student, just another regular human being.
"You don't have to talk if you don't want to, Neville," Cedric suddenly said, his gray eyes full of sincerity. "But I know something's bothering you. But if you want to tell me, I'll listen."
And suddenly, Neville found himself telling Cedric everything; he couldn't hold it in any longer. In a choked, tear-laden voice he explained how Sirius Black had broken into Gryffindor the night before, and about how he had been such a fool to leave the passwords in plain sight.
Even though Cedric had been nothing but kind so far, Neville still expected the expression on his face to change, for him to judge Neville like the rest of the Gryffindors were doing. He waited for the reprimand, for the words "You're nothing like your parents were," to fall from his mouth, but they never came.
Instead, Cedric stopped in his tracks and put a comforting hand on Neville's arm. "Listen, mate," he said gently. "Everyone makes mistakes, and I know you didn't do it on purpose. No one's perfect; believe me, even though many people in this school act like I am, I know I'm far from it. I've done many stupid things in my life."
Neville gaped at Cedric, who seemed wise beyond his years. "Really?" he muttered.
Cedric laughed gently. "Really," he said. "And there's no reason for you to keep beating yourself up about it. Just ignore those who judge you for it and say mean things to you. Just let it roll off you, and gather confidence in yourself. I've seen you around Hogwarts, and I've even heard Professor Sprout saying you're one of her best students. Don't be afraid to show your potential, Neville."
For the first time in many hours, Neville smiled, and the tears dried on his cheeks. "Thank you, Cedric," he said gratefully. "I really appreciate it."
"No problem," Cedric said softly. "If you ever need a friend, I'm always here."
By this time, they had reached the greenhouses, and they walked in to see the rest of the class had already arrived.
"Hello, Professor," said Cedric as he patted Neville's shoulder. "Here's Neville, he just got a little lost."
"Thank you, Cedric," said Professor Sprout, beaming. "Thank you very much."
"No problem," smiled Cedric. Giving Neville one last glance, he said, "Have a good day, Neville. And remember what I said."
"You, too, and I will," Neville promised as he watched him leave the room.
From that day forward, he remembered that conversation with crystal clear clarity, remembered a friend who had helped him in his time of need. Through all his years he'd never met anyone as kind, and as goodhearted, as Cedric.
Pride blossomed in him the following year when Cedric was picked as a Triwizard champion. Even though Harry, from his own house, was competing too, he cheered for both of them. Cedric's friendship and help at that vulnerable moment had really touched him, and he wanted to give back.
Whenever Neville saw Cedric in the corridors, too, they always exchanged smiles, and Neville didn't feel like an outcast anymore. He truly felt like his own person, not just the offspring of Frank and Alice Longbottom.
And then, on the night of the third task, when Harry came back clutching Cedric's dead body, his gray eyes staring into nothingness, Neville felt the entire world crash down around him. Looking into Cedric's fear-filled, frozen face, he felt guilt assault him in waves. Cedric had needed a friend at the moment of his death, and Neville hadn't been there to comfort him. Yes, even Cedric had feared something. Neville felt sick as tears streamed down his face for his lost friend.
And so it was, that when the final battle came three years later, Neville not only fought for Harry and the freedom of the wizarding world. He fought for Cedric too, someone who had been there for him at a time in his life when he'd felt hopeless. Even as the sorting hat was set aflame right on his head, he kept strong; he owed it to Cedric.
And when it was all over, and Lord Voldemort lay dead on the ground, Neville swore he felt Cedric's presence beside him, smiling at him. "Well done, Neville. I told you there was so much you could achieve. Well done."
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