Chapter 2 : Lost and Found
| ||Rating: 15+||Chapter Reviews: 1|
Background: Font color:
Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling owns everything Harry Potter (and she is also absolutely brilliant)
“Hogwarts awaits.” The words echoed in Neville’s head. He could still feel the pressure from where his grandmother had squeezed his shoulder reassuringly, but a moment later she was gone. Neville sighed, partly from relief but partly from disappointment. No goodbye, just another reminder that Neville’s life was about to change irrevocably.
Neville started when the train’s engine roared and the conductor yelled out, “All aboard!” He scanned the platform for a familiar face. He had seen some of his older relatives earlier but had lost sight of them in his frantic search for Trevor. The platform was quickly clearing out as students rushed onto the train and parents gave their hasty goodbyes to children who, unlike Neville, were more than ready to go to another world. Neville clutched his bags and hurried to get on with everyone else. As he stared up at the huge train, two older boys reached down to take his luggage. He was glad to be rid of the heavy baggage. Taking a deep breath, he put both his hands on the railings and hoisted himself up. He stumbled slightly getting on, but luckily no one noticed. The older boys were heaving up another student’s bags and everyone else was too worried about getting to their own compartments.
“Hey, kid! Get out of the middle of the corridor!”
Neville stepped to the side dazedly, as a group of Slytherin boys sauntered past him. All around him, students rushed past him to their compartments. Disoriented and overwhelmed, Neville started to walk forward with the crowd, but he had no idea where he was going. He could vaguely hear people chattering about their summer holidays and excitedly discussing their plans for the new school year, but Neville could barely focus on getting one foot in front of the other.
Suddenly, two redheaded blurs sped into his field of vision. He was too slow to react and they crashed right into him. They all fell to the floor, tangled in each other’s limbs. Neville rubbed his head after the hard impact and squeezed his eyes shut, half because of the aching pain and half because he was expecting them to yell at him for being in the way. He was surprised to hear loud chuckling instead.
“Bloody hell! You all right, there, George?”
A voice that sounded remarkably similar to that of the first boy laughed and accused the other boy of tripping him.
Neville finally peeked out from behind his bangs as the first boy responded, “Well, it’s not my fault you have two left feet!”
At first Neville thought he had been knocked down so hard he was seeing double, but he quickly realized the two boys were actually twins.
“Sorry to break it to you, Fred, but I’m pretty sure if I have two left feet so do you.” The two boys cracked up at their latest joke and helped each other up, still shaking with laughter.
Finally noticing Neville, sprawled on the ground below them, they both grinned at the younger boy and extended a hand to help him up. One on either side of Neville, they looked like two identical halves of a mirror.
George or Fred, he couldn’t tell the difference, shrugged guiltily. “Sorry about that. We were figuring out the final details of a prank and didn’t see you there.”
The other boy added, “You all right?”
Neville nodded and managed to get out, “Yeah, I’m fine,” as he accepted their hands and got off the floor.
Fred or George patted him on the shoulder and they waved goodbye, walking backwards with a natural jaunt in their steps.
As they turned into a compartment on their right, Neville heard them loudly exclaiming to their friends, “So, who’s up for some back-to-Hogwarts mischief?”
Neville stared at the spot where they had been standing just moments before; he was hardly sure his encounter with the twins had happened at all. At any rate, he was effectively shaken out of his previous daze.
Neville was nearly the only person left in the corridor, so he told himself he would enter the first unfilled compartment he saw. He turned and walked in the opposite direction of the twins. Towards the end of the corridor, he found a compartment with only three students in it. Putting on a big smile, he confidently slid the door open to ask if he could join them. The three boys looked up at Neville with blank faces and his smile instantly faltered. He was growing less and less confident by the second, but he knew he had to do something. They were all staring at him, clearly expecting him to have a reason for interrupting them. He was faced by a tall, rather brutish-looking boy, a large, round-faced boy who seemed rather busy gorging himself on chocolate pie, and a slight boy with light blonde hair and pale skin.
The last boy seemed the least intimidating so he tentatively smiled at him and started to ask, “Could I sit in this comp—?”
But the boy interrupted him. His expression had changed from one of patient curiosity to one of harsh judgment as he demanded, “Are you a pureblood?”
Neville was taken aback by the abrupt question. “Oh…uh…what? Yes…yeah…I am.”
The boy didn’t respond but continued to search Neville’s face. After a few tense moments, he extended his hand. “Draco Malfoy, and these two are Crabbe and Goyle.” He gestured to the two boys sitting with him.
Neville shook his hand uncertainly and replied, “Uh…thanks. I’m Neville Longbottom.” Draco’s eyes widened in recognition and he immediately dropped his hand out of Neville’s loose handshake as his mouth turned up into a smirk. He turned away from Neville’s bewildered face and instead faced Crabbe and Goyle.
“Well, I guess they’ll let anyone in these days,” Draco said with a dry laugh. Crabbe and Goyle, who had moved quickly from the chocolate pie to Goyle’s stack of Pumpkin Pasties, stopped devouring their food and blinked at Draco confusedly.
Draco exhaled loudly. ”Long-bott-om,” he repeated slowly, as if he were explaining it to small children, “he’s basically a Squib.”
Crabbe and Goyle, finally catching on to the joke, glanced at Neville and started laughing hysterically. Draco smirked and continued to talk about Neville as if he weren’t standing right there.
Neville had no idea what to do. He just stood there silently, unable to move, as they talked about him and his worthlessness, because, honestly, hadn’t he thought all the same things before? He didn’t even blame them for thinking so badly of him because everything they were claiming was true. He was about to go to Hogwarts and he still couldn’t do a simple spell. He was worse than a Squib. He was a nothing. And there was nothing he could do about it. He felt entirely numb to their insults. That is, until they mentioned his parents.
“I heard his parents went insane. They were locked up in St. Mungo’s because they couldn’t handle a little pain. Absolutely useless, the lot of them,” Draco added with a loud laugh that was quickly joined by Crabbe and Goyle’s snorts of laughter. Inside Neville, something snapped. They had easily guessed his insecurities, but they were clearly nothing more than ignorant bullies if they dared to think that about his parents. Neville may not have had very much courage in himself, but he was certainly proud to be his parents’ son.
In a clear, loud voice, Neville spoke up. Just two words. “You’re wrong.”
He didn’t wait to see how they would react. Without looking back, he closed the door amidst their dying laughter and walked off in the opposite direction, down the corridor, far away from Malfoy and his cronies.
He was about to give up and resign to the changing compartments for the remainder of the trip when a boy to his right called out, in a strong Irish accent, “Oy, do you want to join our compartment?”
Neville looked around to see if the boy could be talking to someone else, but as far as he could tell, there was no one else in the corridor. Two boys were sitting in the compartment, an unfinished game of Wizard’s Chess between them. The boy who had invited him to join them had messy brown hair and very untidy robes; Neville’s grandmother would never have approved of such carelessness. The other boy had dark skin and was wearing some sort of Muggle sports jersey. They smiled expectantly at Neville, waiting for him to respond.
Neville hesitated. “I wouldn’t want to interrupt,” he finally answered in response, gesturing to the chess game.
The boys briefly glanced at where Neville was looking but assured him they had given up on the game ages ago as they were both absolutely rubbish at it.
“Actually, Dean was just telling me about how he likes Muggle football better than Quidditch. Can you believe that? How can you compare a game where all the players stay on the ground and only use one ball to Quidditch? That’s just mad,” he said, smirking at Dean and shaking his head in mock disappointment. “Oh, and I’m Seamus Finnigan by the way,” said the boy with the messy hair.
“Neville,” he replied with a smile. No longer hesitant, he entered the compartment.
Dean grinned at Neville and offered him the seat next to him. Once Neville was settled, Seamus and Dean continued their earlier debate.
“How is liking football mad?” Dean started off. He opened his mouth, about to begin a long list of all his favorite aspects of the game, but he stopped himself when he realized what else Seamus had said. “And I never said I didn’t like Quidditch. I hadn’t even heard about it until today,” Dean said, lightheartedly punching Seamus in the shoulder, “but from what you’ve told me so far, it certainly seems mad. Why on earth would catching one ball give you 150 points? It just makes no sense. Neville, what do you think?”
“Um, I don’t really know. I’ve never seen a football match before, but Quidditch does seem pretty mad sometimes. Like last year when the World Cup went on for five days! My gran made us leave early because she was sick of waiting around for the snitch to get caught. She said the seekers were clearly rubbish if they couldn’t catch it after that long.”
Dean and Seamus were quiet for a moment and Neville was sure he had already said something wrong. He talked too fast or got too excited or should have kept his grandmother out of it. But then Dean shouted, “Five days?!” He looked at both Seamus and Neville incredulously, shaking his head and smiling. “I’ve always said I would play football non-stop if I could, but that sounds absolutely barmy."
Seamus laughed good-naturedly, despite the jibe at his sport of choice. “It was pretty sad to watch actually. I don’t blame your gran for leaving early. They had to pull out the reserves and after halfway through the third day, hardly anyone tried to score with the Quaffle. They just sat on their brooms and looked for the Snitch like everyone else. At first, I wanted to stay up the whole time because I was worried I’d miss somethin’ but me mum forced us to go to sleep in shifts. Good thing, too, because the people who stayed up were acting really odd by the end. Too much Awakening Potion can do that to a chap.”
“So, your mum’s a witch, right Seamus?” Dean asked.
“Yeah, me mum’s a witch but me dad’s a Muggle. She didn’t tell him until after they’d tied the knot, though. It was quite a shock, I’d reckon,” Seamus confirmed.
Dean nodded. “My mum and my step-dad are both Muggles. My dad left when I was little, but I’ve no reason to believe he was ever a wizard. How about you, Neville?”
“Uh…yeah, my parents are both wizards,” Neville answered a little too quickly but neither Seamus nor Dean noticed anything odd.
“So what other sorts of magical things am I in store for? Dragons, perhaps?” Dean inquired jokingly.
“Well, most of the dragons are in Romania. I reckon we’d never see any at Hogwarts,” Seamus replied, unaware that Dean had been joking.
Dean’s jaw dropped in surprise, “Wait, so you’re telling me dragons are real?”
Seamus laughed. “As real as you are a wizard.”
“Well, that one’s definitely true. My mum almost had a heart attack when the telly started flying around the room. I was seven and she was trying to get me to stop watching it. Every time she turned it off it would turn back on again. I had no idea how I was doing it, though. Then, it started to hover just out of reach every time she moved towards it. My mum tried to ground me for it, but she had no proof that I’d done it. I think she was rather relieved when we got the letter. At least, it explained why weird things always used to happen around me.”
Neville added in, “We found out I was a wizard after my uncle threw me out a window. I bounced.”
Seamus and Dean laughed loudly. “Wicked! Mine’s not all that interesting. I just made me mum’s bean casserole explode when I was like five or somethin’,” Seamus added.
“So how about mermaids, those real, too?” Dean asked next.
They went on like that for quite a while. Dean would ask a question about the magical world and Seamus and Neville would say all that they knew about it. Seamus tended to tell long stories about his experiences with magic while Neville talked considerably less than the other two. He was just happy to be a part of the conversation, to have found some friends.
When the sweets trolley came, Seamus stopped in the middle of his story about the time he could have sworn he saw a centaur in the woods behind his house to buy some Pumpkin Pasties and Chocolate Frogs.
“You’ve gotta try these, Dean. The Chocolate Frogs taste great, but the cards are the most important. I’ve been trying to collect them all, so definitely tell me if you’ve got a Mopsus because I’ve been looking for him for ages. He’s a tricky one.” Seamus continued telling Dean about Chocolate Frog cards, but Neville had stopped listening.
Chocolate Frogs. Frogs. Toads. Trevor. “Have either of you seen a toad?” Neville interrupted abruptly.
Seamus stopped mid-word and they both turned to look at Neville confusedly. “Er…I lost mine on the platform,” Neville hastily explained.
Seamus shook his head. “No, I don’t think so. Sorry, mate.”
“I’m sure you’ll find him later,” Dean said, shrugging.
Seamus and Dean continued on another topic, this time about ghosts. Dean didn’t believe that ghosts existed, but Seamus insisted there was one in his cousin’s barn and thousands all over Europe.
“He’s completely barmy, always asking us what happened to the dragon eggs. We reckon he used to raise them a long time ago and one of ‘em must’ve killed him. We always tell ‘im there are no more dragons in Ireland, but the poor bloke doesn’t seem to get it. You ever seen any ghosts, Neville?”
“What?” Neville said distractedly, clearly still distraught over losing Trevor.
“Have you ever seen a ghost?” Seamus repeated.
“Oh…uhh yeah…loads of times,” Neville murmured, but he wasn’t looking at them. Instead, he was looking under his seat to see if Trevor could have magically appeared there without him noticing.
Seamus and Dean waited for him to explain further, but Neville was preoccupied with scanning the compartment in search of Trevor. After a few moments with no response from Neville, Seamus and Dean looked at each other and Seamus suggested, “Maybe you should go out and look for him?”
Neville nodded. “Yeah, that’s a good idea. He tends to like hiding in dark, cold places so maybe he’ll be somewhere in the lavatories or under a seat in another compartment or just out in the corridor somewhere. I’m bound to find him eventually,” he assured himself.
Neville rushed out the door to start looking and Dean yelled out, “Good luck!”
Neville started toward the boys’ lavatories because toads preferred wet environments, but an exasperated Ravenclaw prefect, who was standing guard outside the door, stopped him. Apparently all the boys’ toilets had overflowed simultaneously and one of the toilet seats was missing. Neville reckoned the twins might have had something to do with it. He had no idea where to look next, but he wasn’t too keen on asking any students so he started with the corridor. But being a corridor it yielded very few hiding places, even for an animal as small as a toad. After hurriedly walking up and down the corridors twice and searching under every radiator and in every corner, he resigned himself to the fact that he would have to start asking some of the other students in the compartments.
After entering nearly a dozen compartments with no results, Neville was really starting to worry. “What if I don’t find him at all? I have no idea what I’d do without Trevor. And what would Uncle Algie say if he knew I’d lost his present? And then there’s Gran. I’m sure she’ll be disappointed when she finds out I couldn’t even take care of one toad,” Neville thought anxiously, as he prepared himself to knock on yet another compartment door.
The compartment door opened to two boys around the same age as Neville. One had bright red hair and lots of freckles while the other had unruly dark hair and glasses. He asked them if they had seen a toad anywhere, but they shook their heads no. Another dead end. It was at this point that Neville essentially lost it.
Tears springing up behind his eyes, Neville wailed, “I’ve lost him! He keeps getting away from me!”* (104).
The other two boys were taken aback by the outburst but tried to reassure him that his toad was bound to turn up eventually.
Neville murmured a response of weak agreement and dejectedly left the compartment. Slumped against the corridor wall, he exclaimed, “Oh! There’s no use! I’ve lost him for good. I just know it!”
“Lost what?” inquired a girl who was walking by.
Neville looked up at a petite girl with bushy, brown hair and a sweet smile, revealing a very white set of teeth and a rather prominent front pair. She was already wearing her Hogwarts robes, evidently on her way back from the girls’ changing compartments.
“Oh, er…hullo,” Neville greeted the girl awkwardly. “Umm…I’ve lost my toad. Trevor.”
Undeterred by his apparently lacking conversational skills, the girl proceeded to spout out all she had learned about toads in her pre-Hogwarts reading. “A toad, really? I read in Hogwarts: A History that toads have been magical companions to witches and wizards for centuries,” she remarked.
Neville nodded. “But Trevor isn’t particularly special. He doesn’t have any special powers or anything,” he admitted. “Like me,” he thought.
“Oh! No, I doubt that. Toads often have hidden powers and are supposed to be quite calming creatures to those who own them,” the girl insisted. “Toads are also rumored to aid witches and wizards in finding true love, which is likely what inspired the Muggle fairy tale about the frog prince. Apparently, a man transfigured himself into a toad, not a frog, but was unable to transfigure himself back. Then, his true love kissed him and he was magically turned back into a man. I don’t believe that, of course. That’s just rubbish folklore,” the girl said, waving off the story with a laugh.
Neville brightened up a bit. This girl, who clearly knew loads more about magic than he did, seemed to think toads had hidden powers of some sort, so maybe he could too.
“So are we going to find this toad or not? I suggest we start by asking the students in the compartments,” the smart, bushy-haired girl said.
Neville looked down, already having decided that finding Trevor was a lost cause. “Oh…no, it’s fine. I’ve already searched the corridor and asked several people in the compartments. I wouldn’t want to bother anyone else. I’m sure he’ll show up eventually,” Neville said unconvincingly.
“Nonsense,” she responded, “you’ll never find Trevor if you give up now.” She took his arm, steering him towards the nearest compartment. “And I’m Hermione Granger, by the way,” she said, while tugging a surprised and politely protesting Neville.
“Neville Longbottom,” he replied, “but you really don’t need to help me, you know.”
She stopped in front of the compartment door, finally letting go of Neville’s arm and looking at him. “I know I don’t have to, but I want to,” she insisted sincerely. Without waiting for Neville to respond, she unabashedly slid the compartment door open and took the lead.
Neville didn’t particularly mind her taking the lead; at the very least, it meant he wouldn’t have to embarrass himself any more than he already had. He stood off to the side as she inquired of their fellow students. She was demanding and rather bossy, but she was also extraordinarily kind and determined, unwilling to let him give up.
When he looked up from his musing, Hermione was introducing herself to the two boys in the compartment. A quick look at his surroundings and the two boys before him told him that he had already visited this compartment, just minutes before. He was about to inform Hermione of this, but then Harry Potter introduced himself.
“I’ve also heard Harry Potter is going to be a first year at Hogwarts this year, maybe if Neville were more like him.”
Neville was suddenly blinded by hatred for a boy he hardly knew. Harry Potter. The boy his grandmother wished he was. The golden boy everyone at Hogwarts was sure to be talking about. The boy everyone in the Wizarding World had been talking about for eleven years. And then there was Neville. Even his own grandmother wished he were more like the amazing Harry Potter.
Seething with anger, Neville was about to turn and leave, regardless of Hermione, but Hermione had just finished talking and was already nudging him out the door.
She was saying something to Neville, but he wasn’t listening. Neville would never be like the perfect Harry Potter. Why did he need to constantly be reminded of that? Harry Potter probably had loads of friends already. He was bound to be extremely popular at Hogwarts. Neville had made a few friends, but who knew how long that would last? Harry Potter was sure to be the best in their class, while Neville was sure to be the worst. He would have continued on this train of thought, but Hermione was enthusiastically waving her hand in front of his face to try to get his attention.
“Were you listening?” she inquired. “I was saying that they hadn’t seen the toad and you told me you already asked some students, yeah?” Without waiting for his response, she continued, “Hmm…let’s start at the other end then, shall we?” and took his arm.
He acquiesced at first, not really caring one way or the other, but then he realized whose compartment they were walking towards. Filled with a dread stronger than his anger, he pulled away from Hermione with a strength that surprised both of them.
“I-I’ve already checked those compartments,” Neville insisted.
Hermione looked at him skeptically, but she could tell he was uncomfortable. After a few moments, she shrugged and motioned for him to lead the way.
Neville sighed with relief and happily led them to a compartment in the middle of the train. Neville knocked on the door and slid it open, letting Hermione move ahead of him into the compartment. The compartment contained five students all around the same age as Neville and Hermione: two boys, one whose hair was dark-brown and curly and another whose hair was blonde and straight, two identical and very pretty girls, both wearing colorful saris with their hair in long, dark plaits, and a girl with short blonde hair and pigtails. They all looked toward the newcomers and the blonde girl smiled at them encouragingly.
“Hullo, Neville here has lost his toad,” Hermione said, gesturing to Neville beside her, “have any of you seen one?”
Before anyone else spoke up, the blonde boy exclaimed in a loud voice, “A toad, really? They’re nice enough I suppose, but aren’t they a bit outdated? Hardly anyone brings those to Hogwarts anymore.”
Neville blushed profusely. The blonde girl with the pigtails elbowed the boy in his side and cried, “Ernie!” Then, she turned to Neville. “Don’t listen to him. He just thinks he knows everything,” she said, grinning at Ernie. Ernie pretended to be offended but just laughed and rolled his eyes at her. “I think toads are kind of cute, personally,” she added, smiling warmly at Neville.
Still looking at his shoes and fumbling in his pockets, a nervous habit of his, Neville mumbled, “Erm…thanks.”
“So, have any of you seen a toad at all?” Hermione spoke up, repeating her earlier question.
They all shook their heads and the dark-haired boy confirmed, “Sorry, can’t say we have.”
As they turned to leave, Neville, still rummaging in his pockets, accidentally dropped his Droobles gum wrapper on the floor. Mortified, he hastily bent down to pick it up, but the blonde girl was quicker.
“Here,” she said, regarding him curiously. His face was bright red and he thought he might die of embarrassment right there. Instead, he nodded and took the bubble gum wrapper, shoving it back in his trouser pocket.
Before he turned away completely, the girl smiled genuinely and said, “I really hope you find your toad.” He looked up at her and gave her a grateful smile before exiting the compartment.
As Hermione walked toward another compartment, Neville thought about the blonde girl’s smile, and he finally realized everything was going to be fine. Trevor had been lost before, but he always found him eventually. He was going to Hogwarts, and it was terrifying and nerve-wracking, but he would get through it. He was not alone. He had already met so many friendly people. He was going to be perfectly fine.
“Hermione,” he called from a few feet behind her. She turned towards him in front of the next compartment door. “I’ve looked nearly everywhere and we’ll probably be there soon. We should just go back to our compartments,” he said.
Hermione looked conflicted. She really wanted to help him find his toad, but he was right; the train was sure to arrive at Hogwarts shortly and she wanted to be ready when it did. “Are you sure?” she asked.
“Really, it’s fine. I’m positive he’ll find me eventually,” Neville replied matter-of-factly. This time he honestly believed it.
She agreed to part ways, albeit reluctantly, and reminded him to change into his robes before the train arrived.
“Thanks, Hermione,” he said. She looked at him confusedly, thinking he was thanking her for the reminder to change his clothes. He laughed and elaborated, “Thank you for helping me look for Trevor.”
“Oh, of course. You’re welcome!” she responded, smiling as well. “See you around, Neville,” she said with a parting wave.
Neville waved goodbye and returned to his compartment, still thinking of the girl with the smile.
Hannah boarded the train and quickly found her way to her best mate’s compartment. Sliding open the door, she found herself facing a grinning Ernie Macmillan and three students she had never met before.
“Hey, Han! You certainly took long enough,” he remarked, laughing. “I befriended this bloke,” Ernie said, gesturing to the boy to his right who was sporting Muggle clothing and a head of thick, dark-brown curls, “while you were off at the Leaky Cauldron. At least I’m assuming that’s where you were since you literally spend your every waking moment there.”
“I’m not always at the Leaky Cauldron…well, I suppose I was at the Leaky Cauldron this morning, but that’s not why I’m late! And anyhow the Leaky Cauldron is a wonderful place!” Hannah replied. She quickly explained (the story wasn’t nearly as long as she had implied) how they had been delayed by a bunch of Muggles who were looking at them strangely and were forced to wait until the Muggles had safely boarded their train.
“You’re rubbish at introducing me to people, by the way. ‘This bloke,’ really? You couldn’t have provided a name or something?” Hannah joked. “For all you fine compartment inhabitants who don’t know me, I’m Hannah Abbott, and you all are?” Hannah asked, turning to the other three.
The boy with the curly, dark-brown hair chuckled in response to her odd introduction. “My fine compartment inhabitants? Well, I’m Justin Finch-Fletchley. Pleasure to meet you, Hannah Abbott.”
“Likewise, Mr. Finch-Fletchley,” she replied, grinning.
The other two students in the compartment looked identical, but each regarded Hannah quite differently. Both girls wore their hair in one long, dark plait down their back and were dressed in beautifully embroidered saris. The girl wearing the deep blue sari detailed with teal embroidering, charmed to appear like falling leaves, glanced up from her book and laughed at Hannah’s jokes, regarding her with a friendly smile. She introduced herself as Padma Patil. The other girl wore a beautiful, though not quite as traditional, hot pink sari with glittering red roses, charmed to dance across her dress. She eyed Hannah curiously, not yet sure what she thought of her and a little jealous of her obvious approval from the two boys. Despite this, she smiled, if a bit tightly, and introduced herself as Parvati Patil.
Their first train ride on the Hogwarts Express continued as normal. Hannah and her fellow compartment mates talked about their summers, favorite pastimes, and of course, Hogwarts. They constructed their guesses based on everything they had heard from friends, family members, newspapers, and books. Hannah insisted there was a war going on between the trees and warned them to not get caught in the crossfire. No, honestly, my father told me a tree punched him in the face his fourth year at Hogwarts! Ernie claimed the headmaster often sung Muggle songs loudly in the corridors and that occasionally the portraits would all join in, at least according to his older cousin, Humphrey. Padma had read somewhere that the Hogwarts’ library held the third largest collection of literature on Merlin in the entire Wizarding World. This fact didn’t particularly impress Parvati. She claimed to have something much more interesting to add to the conversation. Parvati leaned down, like she was revealing a secret that required the utmost confidence, and told them in an excited whisper that Harry Potter was rumored to be starting at Hogwarts that year. Ernie chuckled loudly and informed her that his arrival at Hogwarts that year was actually a well-known fact. Justin was a Muggle-born so he knew very little about Hogwarts, but his parents had ordered the Daily Prophet to learn as much as they could. Justin was particularly excited to watch his first Quidditch match. Shortly before the train arrived, they all changed into their plain, black Hogwarts robes. They had yet to be sorted into their individual houses, but Parvati insisted she would be best suited to Gryffindor; she looked lovely in red and gold.
According to Hannah Abbott, nothing of note transpired on that first train ride to Hogwarts. Though, she did encounter the boy with the lost toad again.
They all looked towards the door as a bushy-haired girl entered their compartment.
“Hullo, Neville here has lost his toad. Have any of you seen one?” The girl gestured to a boy behind her. He silently nodded his head in their direction but didn’t make any move to speak up. Hannah hadn’t even noticed him come in.
Neville. So this was the boy from the platform. He was still looking at the ground mostly, but now she could see he had a round face and chestnut-colored hair with slightly-too-long bangs that hid his eyes when he hunched over like that.
Of course, Ernie managed to make the boy look even more uncomfortable than he already did by insulting his toad.
“Ernie!” Hannah elbowed him to suggest that he kindly shut up and assured Neville that Ernie didn’t mean any harm. If you didn’t know Ernie as well as Hannah did, he would often come off as rather rude. Hannah liked that Ernie wasn’t afraid to say what he was thinking, but she certainly wasn’t afraid to call him out on it either.
Hannah smiled at Neville, but he had already returned to staring down at his shoes. The pause in conversation prompted the girl who had come in with him to repeat her question, the reason for their visit. Hannah shook her head to indicate that she hadn’t seen anything, but her eyes were still focused on the shy boy in front of her.
On their way out, Neville accidentally dropped something on the floor beside Hannah’s left foot. Hannah immediately reached down to pick it up for him. It was a Droobles gum wrapper. She hadn’t had Droobles gum in ages. She was about to tell Neville this, but when she looked up she saw that he had turned a peculiar shade of red and, if possible, looked more uncomfortable than he had when Ernie had insulted his choice of pet. She tilted her head in confusion and held out the gum wrapper for him to take. What could have made him react so strongly? Maybe he was embarrassed because he had turned the attention on himself again? But he looked so distressed. Hannah supposed he was just extremely upset they hadn’t been able to locate his toad. She really hoped he would find it soon. Before he turned to leave, Hannah voiced her last thought with a parting smile.
This time Neville returned her smile with one of his own.
Shortly after Hannah’s second encounter with the boy with the lost toad, the train arrived at Hogwarts. She and her friends rushed out to get to the first year boats. It was tradition for the first years to arrive at the castle in boats instead of the usual horseless carriages. No one living could recall when the tradition had started and no one, ghost or otherwise, questioned it. It could possibly be a metaphor for the passing from one world to the next or it could just be an opportunity to provide the professors with additional time to prepare before the sorting or it could be some sort of misguided bonding experience. Whatever the official reason, it was tradition. Hannah, a girl of many traditions, one being the Leaky Cauldron, respected this one as well. It was also an undeniable fact that the view of the castle on a clear night such as this from across the dark waters of Hogwarts’ lake was absolutely breathtaking, better than any description from any family member or friend or from any picture in the Daily Prophet or in the esteemed Hogwarts, A History.
Hannah and her friends started towards an extraordinarily large man who was calling out to the first years with a broad smile across his face. He had a scraggly jet-black beard and small, nearly black eyes that glittered merrily as the first years congregated around him. His large frame was adorned with an odd assortment of clothing: a large scratchy-looking and well-worn black coat with a pair of heavily patched-up brown trousers, an orange knit jumper, and a huge pair of black leather boots. Despite the lack of rain that beautiful summer night, the man was carrying an enormous umbrella that would probably be able to cover a good-sized shed. Several of the first years held back in fear of the giant man. He could probably fit eight of them inside one of him.
Ernie nudged Hannah and muttered, “Looks like he got attacked by about a dozen Engorgement Charms.”
“Oh, shush! He seems like a really nice man,” Hannah whispered back, after elbowing Ernie with a well-deserved shove to mitigate his laughter.
Luckily, the man didn’t hear what Ernie said; he was busy calling out to six students in the front who were all trying to fit into one boat. He was hollering to be heard over the older students’ chatter, but with a loud, booming voice like his it didn’t seem particularly necessary.
The cluster of students at the front groaned when he informed them that the boats could only fit four students each. When Hannah’s group reached the boats, she mentally counted and realized that their group was five, not four. Padma and Parvati offered to get in another boat, so Ernie, Hannah, and Justin climbed in a boat to the far right. A quiet, light-haired boy eventually joined them, but before Hannah could introduce herself she was interrupted by a splash.
She looked about for the source of the splash and saw a toad bounding towards the boats in the marshy water off the shore. As she reached out, it jumped straight into her lap.
“Well, hello, little toad! Are you looking for Neville?” The toad, being a toad, didn’t answer, but Hannah searched for Neville among the throngs of students surrounding the boats anyways. Unfortunately, she couldn’t find him anywhere with her limited night vision.
Seamus turned around from his conversation with Justin to ask Hannah a question, but before he could ask it he saw the toad in her hands. “Oh! Do you think that’s the toad that bloke was looking for? Maybe we should put him out of his misery and let the toad loose in the lake. I mean, who wants a toad anyhow?” Ernie exclaimed, reaching for the toad playfully.
“No,” Hannah replied sternly, holding the toad away from Ernie’s grasp, “we are not going to throw his toad into the lake.” As she said this last part she held her hands over the toad’s ears (or at least she assumed that was where the ears might be) as if the toad might hear Ernie’s plans and become offended.
“Sorry, Han, I was just kidding,” Ernie said with a shrug, unconcerned by the fate of the toad. Hannah just waved off the apology; she had already known he was joking.
“So do you think it’s the same toad?” Justin asked.
As Justin asked this, the giant man came to check their boat and smiled at the toad in Hannah’s hands. “Nice toad, you’ve got there,” he said.
“Oh! No, it’s not mine, but sir, could you—?”
The man chuckled and it sounded like the roaring of a car engine. “Sir? Never quite get used to you kids callin’ me that. Name’s Hagrid, Hogwarts’ gamekeeper. So what can I do for ya’?”
Hannah grinned. “Well, Hagrid then, I’m pretty sure this toad belongs to one of the other first years. He’s kind of short with a round face and brown hair and bangs. Could you make sure he gets it?” Hannah asked, holding the toad out to Hagrid.
“‘Course I can,” Hagrid answered good-naturedly, taking the toad from Hannah and moving on to make sure the rest of the students were in the boats.
Hannah smiled to herself, thinking that the boy with the lost toad would finally be getting his toad back.
Neville briefly forgot his earlier resolve as he neared the boats. Trevor had never been inside the Hogwarts grounds before so how would he ever manage to find Neville? Neville kept looking behind him hoping Trevor might magically appear (Hogwarts was a magical place, after all), but he didn’t catch sight of any toads in the crowd clearing away from the train. Dean and Seamus happily strolled along a few feet ahead of him. They were walking leisurely at the back of the line among the last straggling first years. The group was led by a huge, smiling man who towered over all the students. Ernie identified him as Hagrid, the Hogwarts gamekeeper. According to Ernie’s cousin, he was a bit odd but also one of the friendliest blokes you’ll ever meet. Plus, if he caught you out of the dorms past curfew he would almost always let you off with a warning and a pat on the back.
When they finally arrived at the edge of the Black Lake most of the students were already in the boats. “Guess we’ll have to split up then, yeah?” Dean proposed. The other boys agreed and headed off in separate directions to find a vacant spot.
As Seamus parted he called out, “See you on the other side, mates,” and made his way to a boat. Neville grinned in response and searched the remaining boats for any empty spots.
Neville caught Hermione’s eye as she stood nervously at the front of the line of boats. She looked relieved to have someone to sit with and excitedly waved him over. “Let’s sit over here, shall we?” she suggested.
They piled into a boat with Potter and the redheaded boy before Neville could begin to protest. Neville didn’t care to talk to the former, but he didn’t have to because a few moments later the boats started moving and all the students fell silent as Hogwarts came into view.
The castle was unlike any Muggle-made structure. There were several archways and towers that veered sideways and others that looked like they were built completely upside-down. The windows seemed to move on their own, whole sections of the castle changing before their eyes. The castle glimmered in an unnatural way; the moon shined overhead, but the castle was giving off its own light. Its formation was extraordinary; it shouldn’t have been possible, but it was. Neville, though thinking all these things, was more concerned with how easily someone could get lost in a massive castle like this. He sighed; Trevor had no chance whatsoever.
Moments later, as if summoned by Neville’s thoughts, Hagrid peered at Neville’s boat and called out, “Oy, you there! Is this your toad?”* (112).
Neville wiggled around in his seat and immediately spotted his toad squirming in Hagrid’s enormous hands. He cried out Trevor’s name in a mixture of surprise and excitement.
Hagrid chuckled and opened his hands to let Trevor escape. The toad bounded and landed in Neville’s outstretched arms. “Now hold onto ‘im tight, ya don’t want’a lose him again,” Hagrid advised. Neville nodded and clumsily shoved Trevor into his shirt pocket with a quick admonishment to stay put, at least until after the sorting.
Hagrid led the students up a dark, damp stairwell and into a long passageway that came out at the main entrance to Hogwarts. Up close and in the dim light of night, the castle looked enormous and more than slightly terrifying. Hagrid knocked sharply on the door and the sound echoed across the grounds in the bated silence of the anxious first years. The door opened to show a tall, grey-haired woman with a tight bun, dark green robes, and a firm expression. Hagrid introduced her as Professor McGonagall and she opened the door wider to admit them inside. She did not smile at the new students, but instead silently motioned for them to follow her. She ushered them past the entrance hall at a brisk pace. Neville found her almost as frightening as his grandmother. She did not seem like the kind of woman to tolerate any kind of acting out; he would be sure to stay on her good side.
Her expression remained stoic as she relayed the details of their imminent sorting, but when she talked about the house cup her eyes gleamed a little more brightly. Neville already knew about all the houses. They were Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, Gryffindor, and Slytherin. He had no idea what house he would be placed in or if he would be placed in any house at all. As far as house points, he doubted he would ever earn any and was considerably more worried about making sure not to lose any. Before Professor McGonagall left she suggested they make themselves look presentable; her sharp eyes focused for a moment on Neville’s upturned collar before turning to a few other students. Neville pulled it down quickly and fumbled for the bubble gum wrapper again (now in the side pocket of his robes). Several other students were flattening their hair and clothing to improve their appearances, but none of them were able to improve their panicked expressions.
And then, there was a scream. Neville would not have been particularly surprised if it had come from him, a manifestation of his increasing fear, but the scream actually originated from a girl in the back of the hall. The girl had perfectly curled sandy-blonde ringlets and a pink bow on top of her head, which had fallen slightly off-balance when she jumped at the sight of nearly a dozen ghosts passing through the entrance hall. Her screams were quickly joined by those of several other students. Dean was thrilled by the ghosts’ arrival and nudged Seamus’ side to give him a lopsided grin. Neville was pleased to see Malfoy recoiling from the ghosts, a terrified expression replacing his previously faux-confident one. Neville was not particularly afraid; he had seen a few ghosts before, though he had certainly never seen so many in one place.
Neville was afraid of many things, one of them being failure, but he was not afraid of death. The nightmares that plagued his dreams always veered toward that end, but no one ever died. Instead, he watched his parents being tortured by a faceless man. Every night they came close to the reprieve of death, but they were never released from their curse. Neville, of course, had not been there when his parents were tortured, but he had read enough about the Cruciatus Curse to know they suffered agonizing pain.
When Neville was nine, he went through a phase of morbid curiosity when he wanted to know everything about what had happened to his parents. He asked Gran about it a few times, but she always carefully evaded his questions. Though, during one visit to St. Mungo’s she buried her face in her hands and muttered, “Bloody Lestrange! If she weren’t in Azkaban already, I’d Avada Kedavra her myself!” Neville easily deduced that this Lestrange woman had something to do with his parents’ condition, but he knew better than to press Gran with any more questions about it. His relatives occasionally revealed tidbits of information like the name of the curse and the general horror of such a thing, but they were just as careful to avoid the subject. He was forced to find other methods of obtaining the information.
One day in Flourish and Blotts, Neville snuck away from his grandmother while she was talking to one of their distant relatives. No one paid him any mind as he slipped off into the small, closed-off Restricted section; it wasn’t a particularly popular part of the store, especially during the peaceful years following the First Wizarding War. He sifted through the unfamiliar shelves but was unsure of what he was looking for. The books had hideous images across their spines and were whispering amongst themselves, long moans and garbled screams coming from inside the weary pages. While he was going down one of the aisles, he heard a horrible laugh escape from one of the shelves on his right. A sickeningly sweet voice called out to him from the thick book he now turned to face. It whispered of unimaginable knowledge and power. Neville was inexplicably drawn toward the voice. Almost as if in a trance, he gingerly removed the book from its shelf. He was vaguely aware of the hairs standing up on the back of his neck, the breath hitched in his throat, and the loud pound of his heart beating roughly against his chest. The book was titled Unforgivable, the words carved in deep-set silver script across the dark leather cover. Neville opened the book and a loud wail pierced his mind. He jumped, dropping the book, and turned to see if the sound had stirred anyone else. He waited a few moments, but no one came running in. The room was just as deserted as when he had first entered, and he could still hear the faint hum of regular activity inside the shop. He was the only one who had heard the sound.
With slight trepidation this time, Neville carefully picked up the book again. He was prepared for the sounds, but he wasn’t prepared for the actual contents. There were three sections: "Imperio," "Crucio," and "Avada Kedavra." Ignoring the others, Neville quickly turned to the second section. He had already wasted so much time, and any minute now Gran was sure to notice he was no longer dutifully waiting at her side. He hid himself behind the large bookshelf towards the back of the room and started reading. The chapter was headed with the gruesome image of a man’s body being twisted in ways no body should ever be forced. The man struggled against the invisible bounds securing him to his pain and his screams echoed inside Neville’s head. Neville wanted to shut his eyes and cover his ears but it would do no good; the image and the sounds were burned in his mind. Eventually, the man stopped struggling and screaming altogether; he slumped over in agony, unable to move his mouth to form anything other than involuntary gasps. The tip of a wand moved across the bottom right edge of the page and a voice from an unseen wizard screamed, “Crucio!” Neville watched in horror as the man twisted in another lurch of pain and then collapsed on the bottom of the page. Motionless. Dead. Not in the insanity ward of St. Mungo’s. Neville hastily turned the page to a description of the spell and its effects. The author cautioned that in order for the spell to work it would need to be done in hatred; the wizard would need to want to cause immeasurable pain. The description was written from the point of view of someone who might actually use it on another human being, but who would do something so heartless? Neville already knew the answer. He turned the page to read about the effects. The victim’s body raged war against itself, internally crushing, tugging, twisting, squeezing, and distorting every cell. The pain would incapacitate the victim, and if the spell were performed for long enough duration the pain would be impossible to bear.
Before he could think further on the topic, Neville heard his name being called from inside the shop. The voice was distant enough for him to know Gran was still only in the front of the store. Neville closed the horrible book and hurriedly placed it on the shelf nearest him. He walked out of the room and made his way to the Charms section at the other end of the store. His grandmother spotted him after a few more calls of “Neville Francis Longbottom!” and immediately asked him (rather loudly and shrilly) where on earth he had been. Neville insisted he had just been looking about, but she didn’t listen for his answer. Instead, she began a long speech about how disrespectful it was for him to go off without telling her, how much time it had taken out of their shopping day (though she had been the one chatting for so long), and finally how the books in the Charms section were hardly suitable for a nine-year-old boy who wasn’t even attending Hogwarts yet. Neville did not challenge her assumptions; he knew she would be considerably more furious if she knew where he had actually run off to while under her watch.
As Neville and his grandmother bustled up and down Diagon Alley to finish the rest of their errands, Neville’s mind was still in the back corner of the Restricted section of Flourish and Blotts. For the first time in his life Neville wished his parents were dead. If they were dead they might actually remember their son’s name. They might be happy and carefree in heaven. They might be ghosts who could talk to their son every day. They might be—but it was no use thinking these things; they weren’t dead. They had gone through all that pain and made it out alive, only to be barely living. Neville was proud of the sacrifices his parents had made, but he couldn’t help himself from wishing things had turned out differently, that his parents weren’t alive and well (in the weakest definitions of the terms) in the insanity ward of St. Mungo’s. Neville resolved never again to seek out information on what had happened to his parents, though this did not stop his dreams from replaying the scene in the book. Except, in his dreams it was not the man, but his parents, and the scene was looped, a never-ending pain that never ended in death.
Neville was not afraid of death, nor was he afraid of ghosts. Fear of the imminent sorting was still weighing heavily on his mind, though. Professor McGonagall returned and the ghosts disappeared, melting into the walls surrounding the Great Hall. The students were instructed to get in a line and enter through the main doors. Neville wished he could float through the walls like the ghosts had done moments before; even that might be less conspicuous than the throng of nervous first years who had just entered. Neville could feel hundreds of eyes trained on him (and the rest of the first years), so he stared resolutely over their heads at the enchanted ceiling above him. According to Hermione’s excited whisper, the ceiling was charmed to appear like the sky, the same one that was just beyond the castle walls. This night the ceiling was a deep black glittered with distant golden stars that seemed to continue beyond the confines of human imagination. The sky opened up to reveal a vast universe just beyond their reach. When the vastness of it all was starting to make Neville feel nauseous, he finally looked down and observed that Professor McGonagall had placed a very old, very worn, and thoroughly patched-up wizard’s hat on a stool in the middle of the hall.
Somehow, Neville had never thought to ask anyone in his family how the Sorting actually worked. It had always been such an inevitability that he had never considered the actual details of such a thing. If he had ever thought to inquire about it, he might have been slightly less confused when the aforementioned wizard’s hat suddenly broke out into song.
Neville quickly got over his surprise and listened intently to the hat’s words, hoping for something that might calm his overactive nerves. Gryffindors were brave and daring. Hufflepuffs were hardworking and loyal. Ravenclaws were intelligent and logical. Slytherins were cunning and willing to use any resources necessary to achieve success. Unfortunately, Neville did not feel he fit any of those descriptions particularly well. He was just Neville.
Professor McGonagall called out the first student’s name, Hannah Abbott, and the blonde girl from the train stepped forward. Almost immediately after the hat was placed on her head, it announced she was Hufflepuff. She took off the hat, handed it back to Professor McGonagall, and rushed over to the Hufflepuff table amid cheers and smiles.
Neville thought he might like to be in Hufflepuff. Just and loyal friends certainly sounded good. He wouldn’t object to Hannah Abbott being among those friends, either. Gran, on the other hand, thought Hufflepuff was a “soft” choice. She made it rather clear she wanted him to be in Gryffindor. Both she and his parents had belonged to that house. Neville wasn’t much like Gran or his parents, though; he had never once been described as brave or daring.
“Neville Longbottom?” Professor McGonagall repeated. The redheaded boy nudged Neville in his side. Neville hadn’t heard his name being called the first time. He scurried over to the stool and almost tripped over his shoes in his haste. Neville heard a few people snicker, but then the hat fell over his ears, muffling the laughter.
Neville held his breath and waited. “Any house, please,” Neville whispered desperately.
“Hmm…an indecisive chap, aren’t you?” the hat replied. Neville nearly jumped out of his chair. He hadn’t actually expected the hat to respond.
“Well, I’m not really sure with you,” the hat continued, “definitely not Slytherin, though. You wouldn’t fit in with that lot. And not Ravenclaw either. You don’t seem the bookish sort.”
Neville had never heard a hat muttering to itself before. He probably would have found it quite comical if the hat’s decision wasn’t so utterly life-altering. His house at Hogwarts would define him for the next seven years. And if the hat never sorted him—well, he didn’t want to think about that.
“So Hufflepuff or Gryffindor, then. You’re certainly a loyal friend and kind, as well. Ahh…but I see you are not afraid to hold a grudge as well.” Neville instantly pictured Harry Potter.
“You’re really a tough one, you are,” the hat pondered, and if it had hands and a head he would probably be scratching his brow in thought.
“You’ve been through a lot, I see. Your parents were clearly a brave lot, but I see some of that in you, as well.”
“Brave? I’m not brave,” Neville thought absentmindedly.
“Really, you don’t think so? You’re not fearless at any rate, but who has ever claimed bravery dispelled fear? You’re brave, boy. No doubt about that. You show great courage in that you don’t cower in the face of death. You would also go leaps and bounds for those you care about. You stand up for those who cannot and for those who have long since lost the ability to do so. Unless you oppose…” the hat concluded, waiting for Neville to say something.
Neville wasn’t sure what he was supposed to be opposing, so the hat said, “Well, then it’s settled—GRYFFINDOR!”* (120).
For a moment, Neville didn’t realize the hat had spoken aloud, but he could suddenly hear uproarious cheering from the table to his right. Neville shot out of the stool to join the rest of the Gryffindors. Halfway to the table, Professor McGonagall yelled for him to bring back the hat. The hall erupted in laughter, but this time Neville didn’t feel self-conscious. Neville jogged back and handed the hat to a surprisingly beaming Professor McGonagall. He walked back to the table as the hat was placed on Morag MacDougal’s head. Neville sat down beside a smiling Hermione and was patted on the back by several of his older housemates; Seamus grinned at Neville and the twins from the train gave him four thumbs-up.
Even when Harry Potter had been sorted into the same house, Neville’s happiness did not diminish. He could hardly believe his luck. Not only had he been sorted, he had been sorted into his parents’ house. Gran would be tremendously proud when she found out.
Hannah was glad to have been sorted first. When she was nervous, she liked to get things out of the way, to rip the band-aid off as quickly as possible. As soon as the hat declared her a Hufflepuff, the hippogriffs that had been beating wildly against her insides finally subsided. She happily skipped over to her new table and housemates.
Moments later, she was joined by Susan Bones, a pretty auburn-haired girl who blushed at the cheers and smiles being directed at her. “Hi,” she said breathlessly to Hannah.
“Hey,” Hannah replied with an enthusiastic smile. Susan instantly relaxed and smiled back at her.
“I’m so glad I was put in Hufflepuff,” Susan whispered while another student was being sorted, “more than half my family was in Hufflepuff. Plus, I’ve heard everyone in this house is really nice.”
“Yeah, Hufflepuff seems great,” Hannah agreed cheerfully.
They both turned to watch the rest of their year get sorted. Hannah grinned at Justin Finch-Fletchley when he joined their table and made room for him on the bench between her and Susan. Susan became shy again when Justin sat beside her, but once Hannah introduced them she politely smiled and said hello. Hannah smiled imperceptibly when she noticed a familiar toad in Neville Longbottom’s shirt pocket. When Ernie was sorted into their house, he slid into the seat next to Hannah and gave her an enthusiastic high-five. She laughed at the ridiculous greeting but hugged him excitedly all the same. The rest of their class consisted of a familiar-looking (though Hannah couldn’t quite place the face), tall black girl with wild jet-black curls named Megan Jones, a lanky boy with light blonde hair named Zacharias Smith, a short, broad boy with light brown hair named Wayne Hopkins, and a petite girl with chocolate brown, shoulder-length hair named Leanne Miller.
The Hufflepuff common room was situated just a ways beyond the entrance to the Hogwarts kitchens. One of the prefects revealed that by tickling the pear on the large still-life portrait of fruit, they would be admitted to the kitchen where any number of house elves would be happy to serve them. Another prefect jokingly shushed the first one for revealing a heavily guarded Hogwarts secret to a bunch of first years, but the prefect just smiled and claimed that they were bound to find out within a few days living so close to the kitchens. Ernie grinned at Hannah and she instantly understood his meaning. She was eagerly anticipating getting some more of that treacle tart from earlier.
“Now, first years should come round to see this,” a tall seventh year prefect announced, gesturing towards a pile of barrels stacked in the far corner of the corridor, “the entrance to the common room opens up right over here. All you have to do is tap your wand on the top of this barrel right here to the following tune. Hel-ga Huff-le-puff, everyone got that?”
The first years nodded confidently. “And if you mess it up you will be cursed with a terrible fate,” a third year in the second row said seriously. The first years faltered in their nodding.
A fifth year chuckled and retorted, “Ahh right, because being doused in vinegar is such a horrible fate. Though, it would do well if you at least tried to remember the correct combination because we don’t want to repeat the Slip and Slide Debacle of ’88.”
Hannah and the other first years laughed and followed the prefects through the barrel into a short sloping passageway that opened up into their cozy common room. The room buzzed with life from the various flowers and plants that lined the walls and even poked through cracks in the tiled floor. The basic structure consisted of rounded yellow walls with black accents and a smooth, low ceiling covered in bright green, interloping vines. The floor of the room was filled with about a dozen rich wooden tables and comfy quilted seating areas. The room was basked in light, though the windows only showed a ground-level view. Helga Hufflepuff smiled at the students from a portrait in the center of the back wall and tipped her goblet to them. The lively atmosphere vaguely reminded Hannah of the Leaky Cauldron where her parents were probably drinking butterbeer at this very moment, alternately bemoaning the absence of their only daughter and celebrating their newfound freedom. Hannah chuckled to herself and resolved to send them a letter as soon as time would permit.
The boys left to examine their living quarters. Susan and Hannah moved to follow suit but were hindered from doing so by two rowing students (or rather, one rowing student and a timidly cowering student) blocking the entrance to the girls’ dormitories.
“NO! I WILL NOT GET YOU HER BLOODY AUTOGRAPH!” screeched an irate Megan Jones. Her dark curls whipped violently as she yelled at a third year boy, now standing a few safe feet away from the furious young witch.
The boy, rather unwisely, did not immediately back down and instead weakly asked, “Well, how about yours, then?”
“WHAT AM I? THE RUDDY CONSOLATION PRIZE OR SOMETHING?” Megan yelled, rounding on the boy again with a murderous glare.
This time he was smart enough to hastily leave before she could pull out her wand to hex him. She was just a first year so she didn’t know many spells, but regardless she looked like she could cause serious damage with or without a wand.
Susan and Hannah exchanged looks of confusion (What was all that about? And more curiously, how on earth had this girl been placed in Hufflepuff house?), but they ventured toward the scene nonetheless.
“Is everything okay?” Susan asked tentatively, touching Megan’s shoulder.
Fortunately, Megan did not start yelling again. Instead, she sighed exasperatedly and muttered, “Gwenog Jones this, Gwenog Jones that! Why on earth are people so obsessed with her? I’m not just Gwenog Jones’ sister, you know.” Though Megan didn’t particularly direct this statement at Susan, she felt complied to reply anyhow.
“I have an older brother,” she began. Megan looked at her skeptically, as if challenging the necessity of this proclamation, but Susan continued. “He—he is ridiculously good in school. Like, honestly, probably one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. The whole family reckoned he would be in Ravenclaw, but he was placed in Hufflepuff instead.”
Megan just stared at her. “Well, the point is he has always been better than me at nearly everything, and everyone is always comparing me to him. And…well, it’s awful,” Susan finished.
For a moment, Megan was silent, but when she spoke again the edge in her voice was gone. “It’s not that she’s better than me. She’s just…annoying…” she searched for a better word, “and utterly full of herself,” she said, at last. “She thinks she’s special because she can hit a few Bludgers in the air while sitting on a broomstick, but the fame’s got to her head. She’s nothing like she used to be. And my parents are even worse. They revel in the high life of victory galas and camera crews following them everywhere, but it’s all so stupid. Quidditch is just so stupid. And my whole life revolves around it.”
Halfway through Megan’s speech, Hannah finally realized where she had seen Megan before. Gwenog Jones was captain and beater of the very successful Quidditch team the Holyhead Harpies, so there were pictures of her and her family in the Daily Prophet all the time. The girl in the pictures had straight, tamed hair and there was never a strand out of place, a very different image than that of the girl standing in front of her, but she was definitely the same girl. Hannah didn’t usually pick up on these sorts of things, but looking back on it the younger sister’s smiles had always seemed a bit forced. Once or twice, Hannah thought she might have even seen the girl’s tight smile flicker into a scowl. It was suddenly very obvious to Hannah that Megan did not want to talk about this anymore. In the heavy silence that followed Megan’s admission, Hannah jumped in.
“Too bad I’m an only child. You two make siblings seem like so much fun,” Hannah remarked sarcastically.
Susan raised an eyebrow but her mouth twitched into a smile. Megan simply stared incredulously at Hannah. “And who are you?” she inquired accusingly.
“Hannah Abbott,” she said cheerily, extending her hand.
Before Megan could think to shake the hand or slap it away, Hannah added, grinning, “But I can autograph something for you if you don’t think you’ll remember that.”
Megan struggled to keep the small frown on her face and ended up laughing hysterically instead. “Hmm,” she placed her hand to her chin thoughtfully, “I think I’m actually going to like you,” she mused before wrapping Hannah in an unexpected embrace. “And you too!” Megan called out, pointing to Susan to join the hug.
Neville had been in the common room listening to Hermione’s abridged (though still rather extensive) account of Gryffindor house’s many accomplishments, so when he made his way up to the first year boys’ dormitories the other four boys were already settled in. Seamus and Dean were chatting when Neville entered the room, but as soon as they saw him they grinned and waved him over.
“Right good luck we’re all in the same house, yeah?” Seamus said, clapping Neville on the back.
“Definitely!” Dean exclaimed.
“Yeah,” Neville agreed, grinning.
“You weren’t here when we all came in, but we saved the bed on the back wall for you—is that one good?” Dean asked, pointing to the bed in question.
“Looks alright. As long as I’m nowhere near a window I’ll be fine,” Neville said seriously.
Dean looked confused for a moment, but then he recalled their earlier conversation. “Oh, right,” he said, chuckling, “that uncle of yours must be quite a laugh. Either that or utterly mad.”
“Bit of both, I suppose,” Neville confirmed with a smile.
Neville walked over to his red and gold clad bed. The bed next to his belonged to Ron Weasley, the redheaded boy from the train. Ron nodded to him with his mouth full of food and gestured to the sweets littered all over his mattress. He said something that sounded vaguely like, “Doo joo aunt thumb?”
Neville stared at Ron, the confusion evident on his face. Ron swallowed and repeated himself. “Do you want—oh, wait!” Ron turned around to address Harry. “Sorry, Harry, I forgot you bought these. Is it okay if Neville has some?”
“No, I’m fine,” Neville muttered, having no desire to take anything from Harry Potter. Neither Ron nor Harry heard him. Neville moved to start unpacking his things.
“What?” Harry said, starting at Ron’s question. “Sorry, I was thinking about something.”
“Oh, really? What were you thinking about?” Ron asked, forgetting about his earlier question. Neville focused on unzipping his luggage and tried to ignore their conversation.
“Just…well, I can hardly believe all of this is real. I keep thinking I’ll wake up and find out it was all a dream. The whole time I was waiting to be sorted I was terrified the hat wouldn’t say anything. I didn’t think I’d be sorted at all,” Harry admitted. Neville stopped what he was doing.
“But you’re Harry Potter!” Ron exclaimed.
“Yeah, I guess, but I didn’t even know about all that until just a few weeks ago. I’ve lived with Muggles my whole life. I reckon I’ll be the worst in the entire class,” Harry said.
Ron scoffed at this, but Neville turned around and stared at Harry as if he had suddenly grown three extra heads. Then, recovering from his shock, he smiled broadly and said, “Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll get the hang of it. I’ve lived around magic my whole life and this is still pretty new to me.”
Harry smiled gratefully at Neville. “Thanks,” he said sincerely. Neville nodded and continued to unpack but couldn’t stop thinking of how wrong he had been about Harry Potter.
It wasn’t very soon before they all went to bed. The long train ride and huge feast had left them positively knackered. Neville, though, lay in his bed thinking, not quite ready to be done with the day. With all of his roommates asleep, Neville took Trevor out of his cage and began to relay all that had happened on his first day.
At length, Neville remarked, “I think I might actually fit in here, you know?”
Trevor blinked up at Neville but did not deny the statement. “Yeah,” Neville glanced briefly at the other beds in the room, “my roommates are all really nice.”
Neville paused in thought. “I met a really friendly girl on the train too…her name’s Hannah…she has a nice smile,” but whatever Neville was going to say next was drowned out by the sound of one of his roommates shuffling in his sleep. Neville’s voice drifted off as he waited to see if he had woken someone up.
Ron sat up in his bed and blinked confusedly. “Are you talking to someone?” he asked drowsily, rubbing his eyes.
“Oh…umm,” Neville mumbled.
Then, Ron noticed the toad in Neville’s hands. Yawning, his voice thick in his half-asleep state, he observed, “You’re kind of a weird lad, you know that?” Without waiting for a response, he dropped back onto his bed and shifted a few times to find the most comfortable sleeping position. Less than a minute later, Ron was asleep again and snoring loudly, but Neville was deep in thought.
“Yeah, I know,” he whispered to no one but himself. He placed a confused Trevor back in his cage and finally went to sleep.
*I used direct quotes from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling during the scenes when Neville laments the loss of Trevor while in Harry and Ron’s compartment, Trevor is returned to Neville, and the Sorting hat announces Neville’s house (or, rather, the last part of that line).
A/N: Aww, poor Neville! Don’t worry, his story and general outlook on life definitely improve in future chapters. The adorable awkwardness will always be there, but we all know how awesome he becomes in seventh year (and fifth year, as well). If Hannah’s character seems underdeveloped compared to Neville’s, there is actually a reason for that. Hannah acts before she thinks and isn’t nearly as introspective as Neville is. At this point in the story, her interactions with characters are more telling than her thoughts. She is carefree, optimistic, and a little naïve in her earlier years. Plus, she hasn’t been through as much as Neville has. Though, if you know Hannah Abbott’s story you know that will change. This chapter is all about Neville, but I look forward to fleshing Hannah’s character out in the next few chapters.
Get excited because the next chapter will fast-forward to fourth year! There will be a few more flashbacks to past years, but the rest of the story will progress through their teenage years.
Lastly, I want to give a huge thank you to anybody who has read this story and especially to the two reviewers (Maelody and Melissa) because it means so much to me that people are actually taking time to read what I write. I also want to extend a special thank you to my sister Virginia for being a wonderful Beta.
Reviews are lovely so please write one to tell me what you think (and constructive criticism is always welcome)!
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. New York: Scholastic Press, 1997. Print.
Other Similar Stories
by KJ Asheworth
More Than It...