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Task One Challenge: Square One by Erised
Chapter 1 : Square One
 
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Lloyd Nichols considered himself to be an exemplary person. He was polite, well-groomed and punctual, a gentlemen who held doors open and picked up litter, a loving and thoughtful husband to his pregnant wife. Despite his underprivileged background in an orphanage being the backdrop of his childhood, he’d fought against the naysayers and the bullies to become one of the best magical lawyers in the country. He even worked out now.

Lloyd was on his way to start a very high-profile case involving one of the great war heroes from five years ago. He was heading towards the very person who had single-handedly destroyed a Horcrux and a leader of Dumbledore’s Army – Neville Longbottom. Neville had become a witness in an incident at St. Mungo’s which he’d seen from his window, as he was a long-term patient there, but Lloyd wasn’t sure how long he’d been there. Lloyd assumed it was typed somewhere in his copious notes back at home, but he’d rushed out in a hurry that day – a primary witness’ testimony did not need to wait around for the memories to fade. Being fastidious could wait.

Lloyd strode into the grand halls of St. Mungo’s hospital and inquired at the desk where he could find Neville Longbottom. The Healer attending the front desk gave him a fleeting look of pity before directing him to the fourth floor. Lloyd, unobservant as ever, didn’t notice. He hastened up the stairs, shined shoes clacking on the floor and briefcase prepared with pen and paper. He was ready.

A nurse greeted him when he arrived on the fourth floor and made a motion for him to be quiet. He complied, trying to make his shoes squeak a little less. She quickly did a Secrecy Sensor check on him and kindly asked him for his wand as a safety precaution – he’d expected this, given who he was about to speak to. Lloyd was soon taken to a locked room, where the nurse sent several minutes unlocking each bolt, explaining how they were charmed to not be opened by magic. Lloyd found a prickle of fear growing with each soft click. Eventually, the door opened, and he tentatively stepped inside.

The room was bland and devoid of any personality, save the smattering of plants that had made their home on the windowsill, the bedside table, the floor. None of them were magical, just normal house plants – Lloyd supposed he wasn’t allowed anything else. There were no photographs, and a single comb lay on the dresser. On the dishevelled bed sat a young man with his head down – Neville.

“Hello Neville,” Lloyd said, striding across the room. Neville gave no answer. Lloyd offered him a hand to shake which he ignored. Uncomfortable, Lloyd pulled up the single plastic chair in the room and sat down nervously. He made a show of opening his briefcase and arranging his notes; when he looked up once more, Neville was staring at him.

“Hello,” he replied with a raspy voice, his face now alight with interest. Lloyd could only stare back for a moment as he took his face in. Scarred and pocked, his skin told a story, and his eyes were a dull grey, almost unseeing, as if he were looking straight through Lloyd. Neville’s face showed a hardship unlike anything Lloyd had seen before. The silence became deafening. Lloyd cleared his throat.

“Hello. Right, let’s get on then,” he started, shifting his tie and attempting to focus. Something about the man in front of him unnerved him to his very core. “I’d like to ask you a few questions about the incident you saw last Tuesday, at around eleven at night.” Neville got up and walked to the window at this, his expression saddened.

“Yeah, that was horrible. Blood everywhere. People died, didn’t they?” he inquired, sharply turning back towards Lloyd. His expression had changed to something unreadable. Lloyd simply nodded, thinking it unwise to disturb him. Neville slowly faced the windowsill once more. “Shame. It’s always a shame. I wish I still had my wand – it was a nice one. Mahogany, phoenix feather core, thirteen inches. Wasn’t very bendy. Ollivander said it was good for defensive spells. I could have stopped them.”

“Who could you have stopped? What did you see, Neville?”

“I saw people – two people. A man and a woman. They were running.” Lloyd noted everything he said down on a small notebook – he hadn’t heard any of this information before, nobody had. It could completely transform the case, considering Neville was a primary witness. “They talked for a bit – looked funny. Scared. A guard came along, and then BOOM –“ with these Neville gesticulated wildly – “...explosion. People everywhere. The rest I’m sure you know.” Lloyd continued to scribble as he marvelled at the valuable information he had just received. There had been no mention of a man and a woman at the scene of the crime previously. After a few more trivial questions about times and descriptions, Lloyd had everything he needed.

“Well, thank you very much Neville. This has been a very enlightening trip.” He began to pack away quietly as Neville watched him, his expression unreadable once more. “You’ve helped a great deal in the case. Thank you for your time.” Lloyd straightened his coat and turned to leave. As his hand went to reach for the handle, Neville spoke once more.

“Did you know I worked with dragons once?” he said hopefully, face shining. Lloyd turned back, hand still hovering over the handle. This was information he hadn’t heard before.

“Really? I didn’t know that.” Lloyd let his hand drop and turned his attention back to the scarred man. Neville looked pleased with himself. Lloyd was instantly reminded of a young boy.

“Yeah. After the war. Great big scary things, they are. Flew to Romania ‘specially. Worked with a fair few – Hungarian Horntails, them Peruvian Vipertooths, Norwegian Ridgebacks... even a Ukranian Ironbelly. His name was Nelly. Had to use the conjunctivitis curse on him, though – he got too happy with the fire. It was fun.” At this Neville stopped and sat back down, his expression telling Lloyd he was recalling some fond memories. “I left after a few months to go and work with the Ministry. Had to take care of the dark magic stuff. Found Moody’s old Sneakoscope while I was there, they were dead pleased.”

Lloyd found himself unwillingly pulled into Neville’s fantastic memories. Everyone knew of the brave teenager who had stood up to Voldemort, but he had dropped off the map almost straight after and little more was said of him. He was one of those people who you always wondered what happened to them but their whereabouts were elusive, shrouded in mystery. It was only until he took the case that Lloyd knew he was even in St. Mungo’s as a long term patient, for whatever reason. Lloyd supposed he knew the truth now. “That’s... amazing.”

Neville gave him a lopsided smile, making some of his scars move. “Yeah. When there was a Blast Ended Skrewt infestation there, I dealt with that too. Harry was well chuffed with me.”

“Harry Potter?”

“The one and only. Then I ended up in here.” Neville studied Lloyd’s face intensely at this point, noting the look of disbelief Lloyd was so easily expressing. At this, Neville stood up once more, and Lloyd could see his countenance shifting once more; he was like a tornado, ever-shifting and unpredictable. He also noted how Neville skipped the detail of exactly why he was here now, and his suspicion was raised. “You believe me, don’t you? Harry believed in me in school. No one else did. I showed them. I showed them all. I did it. I did it.”

A faint alarm bell went off in Lloyd’s mind as he noticed Neville’s hands screwed up into fists, his shadowy face twisted and contorted with emotion. A shot of panic coursed through his veins as he stood up to leave. “That’s great, Neville. Unfortunately I have to be going –“

“Going?” Neville’s head snapped round at the statement is it hung heavily in the air. “I don’t think so. I’ve got loads more to tell you!”

Lloyd went into full panic mode and quickly pressed a red button on the wall as Neville stalked towards him, eyes dark with rage. Lloyd dodged Neville’s murderous grasp as several Healers Apparated into the room. Amidst the shouts, wails and cries for Neville to calm down, Neville desperately cried “I fought off Death Eaters just last week!”, eyes filled with tears. His bellows and yells of his achievements slowly faded to a whisper as he was subdued with a Sleeping Draught and a sleeping spell – apparently, just one of the two wasn’t strong enough for him, a panting nurse told Lloyd at his horrified face.

Lloyd quickly exited the room as the furore wound down, shocked. He fumbled with his briefcase and slowly slid down the wall, not caring for once about the wrinkle on his clothes or the miniscule speck of dust on the floor. A matronly-looking nurse came up to him, offering a hot drink. He gladly accepted, gulping it down greedily. A few minutes later, he began to feel calmer and he slowly stood up. The nurse smiled at him in a mothering way. “What... what happened?”

The nurse sighed, pressing Lloyd’s wand back into his shaky grasp. “Mr Longbottom has been a long-term patient here for nearly five years. He never fully recovered from the war; we think he got hit by a nasty Cruciatus Curse that changed something in him. Perhaps in runs in the family,” the nurse said, looking away.

A horrible realisation began to dawn on Lloyd. “So he didn’t do all the things he said he did?” The nurse gave a sad smile.

“Neville unfortunately suffers from psychosis and long-term memory loss. He’s a compulsive liar to make up for it – he can’t help it. Anything he told you wasn’t true. I did wonder why you came.”

At this Lloyd ran an agitated hand through his hair, swearing. He’d completely wasted his time and nearly gotten himself killed because of it. He remembered the twenty pages of notes he had tucked away at home which he hadn’t had time to read last night, too excited to meet his high-profile witness. The nurse frowned. “I thought you knew all this.”

“I wish I did. I have to get going now. Thank you.” Lloyd took one final glance through the miniscule window in the door, and saw the great Neville Longbottom chained and gagged, staring straight at him. His eyes were dead once more. With this Lloyd sped off in the other direction, wanting to leave the building as quickly as he could and never return. He felt shaken and unsettled, and resolved to not tell his boss about what happened. As for the case, he was back to square one.
 




Thank you to CambAngst for helping me work out some kinks!


A/N: Prompts used:

- features House Champion
- mentions at least 4 breeds of dragon
- mentions a Blast-Ended Skrewt,
- mentions at least 1 Unforgivable curse,
- mentions a Sleeping Draught, mentions 2 of the following types of magic: a transfiguration spell, a sleeping spell, the conjunctivitis curse, the summoning charm (accio)
- mentions at least 2 of the following types of Dark Detectors: Foe-Glass, Sneakoscope, Secrecy Sensor, or Probity-Probe
- mentions the details of your Champion’s Wand
- It SHOULD features a theme of flourishing in the face of adversity, but this is up to interpretation! :)

 




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