Chapter 1 : Face for the Brave
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Those words were spoken nearly seven years ago when he was just a boy of eleven years. He hadn't understood them then, and even less as the years passed on. Many times he thought the hat had been wrong after all, and that Hufflepuff was where he truly belonged. He wasn't brave and he wasn't daring. That was his mother and his father; brave and strong, even as their minds were broken and gone. Harry was brave; he had the nerve to do all that he could. Neville wasn't so sure if he had it within him to do all that Harry had, should fate have picked him those sixteen years ago.
But yet… here he was. Tired and dirty, bloody and bruised, he stood upon the rubble of the great, magical school. Beaten and battered, he looked through the dust at those fallen around him. Many he knew were lined up upon the war torn ground, never to laugh or live anymore. Professor Lupin, the funny Nymphadora Tonks and even a Weasley, if the hair was any clue…
Something inside him grew stronger, a burning wishing to burst forth as he gazed upon the faces he knew; these were his friends, these were his peers. But there in the gloom beyond the broken and hanging gates of iron, figures were gathering, figures were coming. He knew who they were, and why they were coming. Harry, his classmate and friend, was dead. Killed finally by Voldemort's own hand. And now that Dark Lord had come to rule them all.
Neville stood at the front of the growing crowd of Hogwarts fighters, surrounded by Weasleys and members of Dumbledore's Army. No one moved, not a word passed from between parched and bloody lips. It was as though the crowd was hesitant to even breathe as Voldemort stood before them, his snake and army around him. It was as the familiar figure of Groundskeeper Hagrid broke through the crowd of masks, that their silence was broken. They screamed and cried out for the body held with care in Hagrid's great, massive arms. Many wept while others yelled insults and curses at those who broke their Boy-Who-Once-Lived. Not Neville though, he was silent and still as a stone. The flames inside him licked at his heart, and his fists had begun to shake; yet he couldn't take his eyes away from the body or their leering faces. Not even an inch did he move as Voldemort shouted and silenced them all.
"Don't you see?" Voldemort said as he paced along where Hagrid had laid Harry upon a patch of flattened grass. "He is gone. He is dead!" His snake like eyes watched them all, the red peering into their very souls. Punishments would come Neville knew this well. They fought against him and their beacon was now gone.
"Where was your hero?" Voldemort called out, slender fingers stroking the pale wand. "Where was he why you all fought against me so valiant and strong?"
No one answered him, no one could. The Dark Lord knew this well, watching them with a sneer. Neville could feel them though, the fury simmering beneath the surface. They tried to cry out, to break through his spell.
"He had left you," Voldemort said, his voice carrying above the crowd. "Fleeing the fight like the coward-"
No one would ever know how his lie, his insult, would have ended. Something had stopped him, distracted him from his task. Neville didn't care though, for all he saw was red. Inside something had snapped, unleashing the fires and letting it burn free; before anyone knew what had happened he had lunged forward towards Voldemort. It was the pain of the sharp stones digging into his back, after being repelled away by Voldemort himself, that cleared the fury from his senses. The fire was there though, blazing within his heart. Not yet had they broke him, he wouldn’t give up.
"And who is this?" Voldemort asked, his voice like a hiss. "Who is this that dares fight even when all is lost?"
Neville looked up, meeting the man of evil eye to eye. He felt a tremble in the back of his mind as Voldemort leaned closer to him, searching for more.
"The Longbottom boy," he said after a moment more, standing to full height. With a curl of his bony fingers, Neville felt himself lifted to his feet, eyes never straying. "The son of mad Aurors, I remember. Neville...” His voice was clear, private, meant only for him. "A pureblood...even more then some of my own," Voldemort spoke. "We could use you Neville...as brave as you are."
There it was. That word again. Brave. The Hat's words back to haunt him. It echoed in his mind, dancing through the flames in his heart. Brave.
"No." Neville said his voice quite loud, his back straight and tall. "Not in the deepest pit of hell would I stand beside you!" His chest heaved with rapid, frustrated breathing. "FOR HARRY! "
The crowd behind him answered in their call, Voldemort's eyes leaving him for just a second to look upon them. When he gazed once more upon Neville darkness was shadowed within the red.
"So be it." His voice was cold as a tattered and worn object was placed in his hand. "The choice rests upon your head."
Neville felt his body snap straight and rigid as Voldemort stepped towards him, the object shoved upon your head. He knew what this was, how could he forget it. For the second time in his life, the Sorting Hat was upon his head.
Outside his vision of darkness, he could hear chaos unleash around him. His body, though still, tickled and burned. Something was different though, something had changed.
"By Gryffindor, the bravest were prized far beyond the rest…"*
"I'm proud of you Neville," his Gran once told him. "As brave as your father and daring as your mother."
He knew what those words meant, long after they were spoken. This hat had been right. Deep within him, the floodgates had opened. The fire, this strength, poured out from him with nothing to stop it.
With a cry, Neville broke free of the curse and thrust the flaming hat from his head. Many looked at him, some with smiles and some with sneers. His eyes met across the courtyard with a living, breathing Harry and his friend nodded once before disappearing. There was not a question of what to do as he braced his feet upon the rocky, broken ground. His classmates, his friends rushed forwards to the chaos before them. He reached into the hat and grasped the hidden prize. The hilt of a sword, silver and gleaming like a beacon of light, emerged from within held tight in his hand.
Tossing the old hat to the side, Neville grasped the sword tight in his hands and rushed forward with a roar, leading the way once more into the fray.
He was one of them; he knew that now after years of doubt. He was strong and he was noble.
He was Neville. He was a face for the brave.
First quote is from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Chapter Seven: The Sorting Hat page 118
Second quote is from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Chapter Twelve: The Triwizard Tournament page 177
Thank you for reading. ~Selene