Chapter 22 : Neville’s Choice
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Ron and Hermione were seated at the kitchen table. Hermione had been surprised when earlier that day Ron had mended it. They had spread parchments on its surface as they considered different plans to get past Sirius’ Mum and into the room that her Portrait guarded. For once, none of their plans were feasible and none of them were going to work. Their success hinged on Sirius’ Mum letting them through and it was more than evident that she would refuse no matter what they said or did.
Ron leaned forward as he rubbed his hands against his temples in frustration. How could they be so close and still not be able to succeed? It was beyond frustrating. “So then we really only have one option.”
“I’m afraid so,” Hermione replied just as wearily. Neither of them relished having to tell another person of their mission especially since Harry had been instructed by Professor Dumbledore to only tell them.
“How are we going to get to Longbottom Manor?” Ron slouched backwards in his chair, his head still in his hands.
Hermione considered for several more silent minutes, discarding idea after idea. “I suppose I could send my Patronus. Neville knows what it is.” Hermione finally suggested. “Then we could Floo there.”
“What about that article that we read in that rag about Hogwarts attendance being required?” Ron asked. “The Floo Network most likely will be monitored.”
Hermione frowned at him. “Then what would you suggest?” she snapped at him.
Ron frowned at her. “I don’t know!” he growled as he sank into his chair.
“Perhaps then I should send my Patronus as our first step,” Hermione thought out loud. “Mrs. Longbottom may know how we ought to arrive.”
Ron sighed, shaking his head. “Fine, but then what do we say? How do we explain what we’ve been doing?”
Hermione frowned as she considered his points. “I suspect that from what Neville has said about his grandmother, we’ll probably have to tell both of them the exact truth.”
Ron shook his head again with disbelief. “She’ll likely want the entire story from the very beginning.”
“But if that’s the only way that Neville can join us…” Hermione warned.
“Then that’s what we will have to do.” Ron really didn’t like their options, but they also didn’t have much to choose from.
It was the next day before they tried contacting the Longbottoms because it wasn’t safe to travel after darkness had fallen anymore. Hermione also pointed out that it would be harder to see the Patronus during the day. While they waited impatiently, Hermione read one of the Dark Arts books for even the slightest bit of information that she might have missed the first several times she had studied the book. Ron paced the living room until Hermione looked up from the book. “Would you please?”
“What?” Ron asked in confusion.
“If you’re going to pace about the room, please go to a different room,” Hermione took a deep breath. “It’s difficult enough trying to read these books.”
“When are we going to send the Patronus?” Ron ignored her protest.
Hermione sighed as she put the dark book on the table next to the chair. “What time is it now?” she asked.
Ron looked at his watch. “About mid-morning, I think.”
“Alright,” Hermione gave a disgusted look at the dark book before picking up her wand and pointing it at the window. “Expecto Patronum!” White light burst from her wand to form an otter. They watched as it swam through the air out of their sight.
“Now what do we do?” Ron asked, bored.
“You could pick up a book and help me figure out what to do with these Horcruxes.” Hermione said before gingerly picking up the book to begin studying it once more.
Ron sighed as he picked up another Dark Arts book from the pile Hermione had made. “What is this book made out of?” He frowned at the texture.
Hermione looked at the book he held. “I have my suspicions, but I’m not saying.”
Ron looked disgusted.
“Hermione, what’s that?” Ron asked when he looked up from the book.
Hermione turned to see a small animal scurrying towards them. “It looks like a…”
“Gran says to Apparate,” Neville’s voice came from the small creature before it disappeared.
“Patronus Charm,” Hermione finished with a wry smile.
“Neville’s figured out how to do the Patronus Charm?” Ron couldn’t keep the surprise from his voice.
Hermione rolled her eyes. “Why do you insist on seeing him as he first began school? You should know better than anyone what it’s like to use a wand that isn’t yours.”
Ron grimaced as he remembered the difficulties he had using his brother’s wand until he had accidently broken it at the beginning of their Second Year. “Er… so he’s managed to learn the Patronus Charm?” he asked in a more interested voice.
Hermione nodded. “Really, Ron, it’s very advanced magic. That so many of us have been able to learn it before leaving school, it’s very remarkable.”
“Right,” Ron agreed.
Hermione put the book down gratefully before answering Ron’s original question. “He’s been working on it this past year as a surprise for Harry.”
“What is it then?” Ron asked.
“A hedgehog,” Hermione answered as she held out her arm. “Well? Are you going to stay here?” Ron quickly grabbed her arm and they disappeared.
They appeared in the foyer of a house with Neville and his grandmother standing in front of them with their wands pointed at them. “I thought it would be slightly safer for you two this way.” Neville’s grandmother explained as she waved her wand. “Now, follow me.” Neville shrugged his apology as he put his wand away and turned to follow Gran into another room.
Ron and Hermione followed them into a drawing room off to the left of the foyer. Gran was already seated in a large chair near the fire that snapped cheerfully. Neville had chosen the other chair near the fire. Gran motioned to the two smaller chairs. “Sit there, if you would.”
They didn’t argue and quickly sat where she had pointed.
“Mrs. Longbottom…” Hermione began tentatively.
“You have much to explain, young lady,” Gran interrupted as she glared sternly at both of them. She looked at Ron. “Are you not aware of how much your actions have hurt your mother, young man?”
Ron swallowed hard. “I suppose…”
“You suppose?” Gran gave him a frigid look then she glanced at Hermione. “Are neither of you aware of the implications of your actions?”
“But we were given this mission by Professor Dumbledore…” Hermione frowned in confusion. “Or, at least, Harry had been and he was given permission…”
“Why am I not surprised that Professor Dumbledore has something to do with this?” Gran asked in a tone that Neville shrank from. She leaned back in her chair and tapped her fingers together. “Now you will explain to me what you want, succinctly, if that is possible.”
“Then I’ll let you explain, Hermione,” Ron muttered, earning another sharp look.
Hermione sent him a disgruntled scowl before turning to Gran and beginning their explanation as to why they had left the Burrow and what they had achieved so far. Then she broached the problem they had with getting past Sirius’ Mum’s Portrait.
Gran sat forward in her chair. “That is a very interesting story and one that I haven’t heard before, to be sure. So you want Neville to leave the safety of his home and join you on this dangerous mission?”
“Yes, if he wants…” Hermione started.
“What else are you keeping from me?” Gran pierced them with another sharp glance.
Ron and Hermione swallowed nervously as they exchanged a look. “There’s a Prophecy…” Hermione stated with Ron didn’t speak. She noticed that Neville shuddered at the mention of the Prophecy. She looked at him. “Neville, Harry believed that you might have heard the Prophecy during the Battle, is that true?”
Gran looked at Neville who nodded slightly. “It slipped from my hands and it played in front of me, though I’m not sure if I heard all of it with the commotion…”
“Harry told us that your parents also met the requirements of the Prophecy but that Nitwit had chosen Harry because Harry is a Half-Blood like Nitwit. As far as we know, you’re the only one who can even attempt to defeat Nitwit now.” Hermione explained carefully.
Neville looked terrified while Gran looked thoughtful and amused at Hermione’s name for the Dark Wizard. “Neville, do you wish to join them?” she asked evenly without giving him a clue on her thoughts.
Long moments passed before Neville answered. “If I’m the only one who fits the Prophecy, then I’ve got to go, don’t I? I don’t really have a choice.”
“Harry told me something that didn’t make sense to me but it might help you,” Ron surprised everyone when he spoke.
“What would that be?” Gran asked with interest.
“It’s not the Prophecy that made Harry fight,” Ron stated. “The Prophecy is all important to Nitwit and that’s why Nitwit continued to pursue Harry. It was because of the Prophecy. Harry’s reason for fighting wasn’t because of the Prophecy but rather because he wanted to get rid of a seriously evil wizard so that the wizard couldn’t continue harming others.”
Gran nodded her agreement. “That is very wise indeed and it sounds like something that Professor Dumbledore would have said.”
“I think Professor Dumbledore did say it, but I don’t think I said it quite right.” Ron shrugged apologetically. “Harry said it much better.”
“No matter,” Gran waved off Ron’s explanation, “Neville?”
“I need to go,” Neville finally decided after another long silence. “He’s, I mean, Nitwit’s been killing parents and leaving children without their parents. Other families shouldn’t have to deal with that.”
Gran looked very pleased. “Then you have my permission. There will be more plans to be made since Hogwarts attendance is now mandatory. I will go into hiding so that you won’t have to worry about me as much.” She left the room calling out for one of the house-elves to ask someone to come immediately if not sooner.
Neville’s eyes widened before he turned and ran after his grandmother, calling for her to wait a moment. He came back with two mirrors. “They’re communication mirrors. Gran’s got another one so we can keep in touch. She also made me promise not to break them or lose them. Let’s go to my room. I don’t think you’ll want to spend the night answering questions.”
“What?” Ron and Hermione asked in unison.
“Gran’s called for your Dad to come here,” Neville explained, looking at Ron. “I think they’re going to do the Fidelius Charm.”
They followed Neville to his room and looked about with interest while Neville went to his desk and wrote out a quick note. He then wrapped one of the mirrors and attached the note to it. He called his owl and sent it out the window. He turned and motioned for his friends to sit. Hermione chose one of the chairs while Ron sat on Neville’s bed. Neville sat at his desk.
“Who did you write?” Ron asked with interest while Hermione sighed, shaking her head.
Neville looked taken aback for a minute. “Oh! Hannah and I have been writing. I think that the mirror will be better than getting owls nearly every day.”
“Will she keep our visit a secret?” Hermione asked.
“Hannah?” Neville frowned with puzzlement. “I didn’t tell her that you were here.”
“Your grandmother,” Hermione clarified.
Neville nodded. “She’s the one who suggested that the three of us come up to my room while Mr. Weasley is here.”
It was some time later when another house-elf appeared in the doorway. “Mistress would like to see Neville and his friends.” She squeaked before disappearing.
They went downstairs where Gran was sitting in her chair once more. She waited until everyone had taken a seat. “This place is now hidden using the Fidelius Charm. I am the Secret Keeper.” She gave each of them a long look before continuing. “After Mr. Potter’s family was betrayed, many who have chosen to use the Fidelius Charm decided it would be much safer for those hiding to keep our own secrets instead of trusting others. It is a rather sad choice but necessary.”
“So if Harry’s Dad or Mum had been their Secret Keeper, then they’d be alive today?” Ron felt miserable for Harry.
“But Nitwit would still be in power,” Hermione reminded Ron. “And if they were in hiding, Harry might not have come to Hogwarts.”
Both Ron and Neville looked more than a little disturbed at that idea and Hermione looked a little green at the thought also. Just thinking about anything Harry had done being undone was difficult. There were so many lives that he had saved over the years.
“I am letting the three of you in on the secret,” Gran handed each of them a small piece of paper for them to read. “As you two do not plan on returning home, you will have a place to run, if needed.”
They stared at her in astonishment. “Thank you,” Hermione finally managed to reply. This was far more than either of them had believed that Neville’s grandmother would do.
She looked out the window. “It’s getting fairly late. You’d best be on your way.” She held out her hand, waiting for each of them to drop their papers into it before standing. “I expect the three of you to survive. I also wish you well in your hunt.”
Ron and Neville held onto Hermione’s arms and they disappeared.
The three of them appeared inside the Potter home. Neville stared at the destruction around him. He could also see where Ron and Hermione had tried fixing up various things.
“Yeah, Harry did all this,” Ron chuckled weakly at the thought.
They showed Neville around and showed him the box they were keeping the Horcruxes in until they could figure out how to destroy them.
“I know that Gran has some Dark Arts books that were handed down through the generations,” he paused. “I don’t know where she put them because she doesn’t use them. She doesn’t want to get rid of them where they would do harm but she refuses to be in the same room as them.”
Hermione rapidly agreed. “They are fairly nasty.”
Neville looked at her in surprise. “How would you know that?”
“She studied them in our Second Year and found out how to make Polyjuice Potion,” Ron told him.
“You brewed Polyjuice Potion during our Second Year?” Neville’s eyes were wide with surprise. It was easy to see he had trouble believing it.
“That stuff tastes horrid,” Ron gagged at the memory.
Hermione blushed. “Well, it did take awhile and it’s a very finicky potion. How about we cover what Ron and I have done so far?”
Both Harry and Ginny were holding a small piece of parchment requesting their presence in Godric’s office. Bilius and Elspet had offered to take them there, which had been gratefully accepted. Even though this was Hogwarts, there were major differences and it was easy now to see what had been added in later centuries. They watched as their friends hurried away. “Are you ready?” Harry asked.
Ginny nodded, looking a little uncertain. “I suppose.”
Harry took a deep breath and knocked on the closed door.
“Enter.” Godric’s voice carried through the door.
Harry opened the door and motioned for Ginny to enter first. She gave him a wry smile as she passed him. He followed her in, carefully closing the door.
“Please, sit.” Lady Helga motioned to two uncomfortable chairs.
“There be much to discuss concerning your abilities.” Lady Rowena said, smoothing her robe.
They sat quickly, watching the Founders. Godric handed each of them a piece of parchment with notes concerning their results on it.
“Knowest ye of our ranking?” Lady Rowena asked when they didn’t say anything.
They looked up with confusion. “Not precisely.” Harry chanced answering.
Lady Rowena frowned. “A page be our lowest rank. They learn by seeing what be done and gain understanding of what be acceptable. Certain Muggle crafts and arts be also learned. Ere the page gain their fourteenth year, they gain the rank of apprentice and learn what be needed for seven years. Dost ye understand?”
Harry looked over his results again. He was relieved to see that most showed him to be an apprentice except for a few subjects which he expected to be low, like the Arithmancy and Ancient Runes, since he hadn’t studied them. He was surprised that Divination was nearly at the apprentice level since he hadn’t paid much attention during class and wasn’t surprised when he saw that Muggle Dueling had been graded as a complete beginner. He looked over at Ginny. “How did you do?” he asked.
She gave him a wry smile again. “Fairly well, except for Arithmancy and Divination. Everything else is apprentice level except for Care of Magical Creatures and the sewing.” She grimaced at the memory. “How’d you do?” He handed her his results and let her read them. “These are good.” When he raised his eyebrow, she laughed. “Mostly.”
“As ye knowest your ranking, ‘tis time to decide your training.” Lady Rowena stated firmly, gaining their attention.
“Ye will train each day in each art.” Lady Helga said.
“Harry, thou wilt spend time in the lists. There thou wilt learn the basics of sword work.” Godric said, “’Tis an important skill to have. Soon thou wilt choose a Muggle craft to learn.”
“Ginny, thou wilt spend time learning the different crafts of weaving and tapestry creation.” Lady Rowena held up her hand at Ginny’s look, “’Tis a most important and delicate work to fashion magical cloth.”
Ginny was stunned at the thought.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this chapter. In the interest of readability, I have chosen to use Middle English in lieu of Old English which would have been used in the time of the Founders.
Thank you very much for your constructive criticism!
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