The Sleepless Halloween
Ginny Weasley couldn't sleep. After tossing, turning, putting a pillow over her head, and trying to ignore the searing pain on her arms from a particularly nasty detention, she sat up in bed with a sigh of exasperation. She looked around the room. The beds were empty again. She sat blinking confusedly until she realized, again, that her dorm mates were Muggleborn.
She shivered. Ginny wasn't exactly friends with her dorm mates, but after first year, they generally got on well enough. The image of them, on September 1st, being carted off from Hogwarts to Merlin knew where still managed to give her goosebumps, one month into the year.
She got out of bed, thinking that hopefully, maybe, the common room fire would give her comfort. It certainly had helped before. Nightmares of Tom Riddle were frequent in her second year, but the fire was always warm and welcoming, like her mother, although she wasn't there back then.
It was the night of the 31st of October, and naturally, it was stormy. Thunder boomed in the distance while lightning flashed periodically while rain completely obscured the windows, which would've bothered her normally, but detention with the Carrows in the dungeons had made her used to not seeing, but always thinking of the outside.
She continued to walk down the stairs, mind half blank, half awake, when she heard sniffling from down below. She frowned. She had heard this cry once before, in her fourth year. She reached the bottom of the stairs and saw a blond-haired boy on the couch. He appeared to be crying again and when Ginny drew nearer, her heart sank.
"Shit!" she exclaimed under her breath, "I promised I'd help him out after detention, oh no, oh no, and after all the times he stayed up to help me out...dammit, I just had to forget, didn't I!"
She rushed over to the boy on the couch. "Neville!" she whispered while slightly moving his shoulders, "Neville, wake up!"
Neville groaned as he lifted his head out of his hands. He appeared to be bleeding. Ginny gasped and immediately grabbed her wand, pointed it at Neville's face and whispered, "Episkey!"
Ginny noticed his eyes. They seemed to be bloodshot, but before she could be sure, Neville caught her looking. He turned red, turned his face away, and muttered groggily, "S' nothing, 'm fine Ginny."
Ginny didn't move but her face flushed with guilt and she began to apologise. "Sorry, I'm so, so sorry Neville, I didn't mean to forget, I was there in bed and I felt so drowsy and fell asleep, and I know it's not an excuse, but that's honestly what happened and I'm really, really-MMM."
Neville covered her mouth with his hand and chuckled slightly. Ginny was shocked. She was making an honest, sincere apology, and he was laughing? She frowned and grabbed his arm and pushed it away and made to speak but Neville cut her off.
"It's alright, I knew you had a shitty day yesterday with detention and the DA meeting, so I don't blame you for wanting to sleep. Really, it's okay."
Ginny was unconvinced and looked pointedly at Neville. Neville seemed not to notice and simply plowed on.
"There was this 'lesson' we had today in Muggle Dehumanization Studies about the inherent high intelligence among the 'high society of purebloods' and I found this funny, because the Carrows are just about the most dim-witted people around." Ginny smiled in spite of her guilt.
"So there I was, in detention, and I told Carrow I wanted to talk about the lesson. He was suspicious, growled in my face too, but I told him there must be an exception to the rule of inherent pureblood intelligence because only moronic bigots would ever actually call him a professor." Ginny covered her mouth to hide her shock and laughter and Neville pressed on.
That's how I got that one," he pointed to the dry cut on his cheek. "It hurt like hell, but seeing Carrow after that had me in fits 'cause I reckon he looked like he downed some Pepper Up Potion because he was steaming after that." Neville smiled, but looked pointedly at Ginny.
Something clicked in Ginny's mind. She didn't believe his apology at first, so Neville told her a joke. He really had forgiven her! Feeling relieved, Ginny tried to picture Carrow literally steaming from Neville's quip and tried to bite her knuckles to prevent herself from bursting out in laughter, but she couldn't help it.
She was laughing and crying because she couldn't remember laughing this much since wandering around the halls and grounds of Hogwarts with Harry and suddenly Neville was laughing too, and for a little bit, it felt like another world where she was just a 16 year old girl who didn't have to face the Cruciatus curse every week and didn't have to see her friends tired and hurting and didn't have to worry if Ron, Harry, and Hermione were still alive...
It was a while before Ginny and Neville relaxed when the room suddenly tensed up again for Ginny and Neville heard a rattling noise come from the nearby couch.
Ginny looked at the couch curiously, and suddenly it hit her. She looked at Neville who seemed to come to the same conclusion. "Boggart?" she asked.
Neville nodded and tried to get up but Ginny gently pushed him back down.
"I'll deal with it. Just relax," Ginny told him. Neville started to protest, but Ginny turned away from him.
Ginny got up off the couch and lifted the cushion to reveal the boggart. She jumped back and tried to concentrate, tried to think of something funny, but before any thought could form in her head, the boggart had taken form. She was staring at a red-headed eleven year old girl sitting on a desk writing in a diary. The girl was happy and smiling, but looked very determined as she continued to write. Ginny felt herself pale as she tried to remember what the girl was writing.
"Think of something funny! Come on Ginny, get out of it!" she heard a voice-was that Neville? She thought she heard a voice in her own mind calling back to him, but Ginny couldn't move. It was the Chamber of Secrets all over again, her fears and flaws pulling her down below with no one to help, no one to trust.
She remembered there were secrets, lots of them. All the fears and insecurities she had when she was younger filled her mind while the eleven-year-old girl continued writing, smiling, concentrating, trusting, believing... She remembered her brothers teasing her for playing with girly things or mocking her, telling her that she couldn't play Quidditch. Was she simply just one of the guys? Was she good enough to play? Could she play at all?
A tall, handsome, dark-haired boy popped up from behind the diary. He was saying something, and the eleven-year-old girl's smile grew wider as she put her hands to her heart before continuing to write and smile with increased enthusiasm. The handsome boy looked at Ginny then, giving her a nasty look, and then looked away, smiling and saying something undoubtedly encouraging. Thunder boomed and lightning flashed, but Ginny didn't move.
She still didn't move. She remembered her fear of walking into school the first day with all her second-hand equipment. Were people just going to pity her? Would they judge? Would they tease her? Mock her?
The handsome boy started saying something again, and the eleven year old girl wrote with increased vigour, and then hugged the diary to her chest as if it were a friend...and the handsome boy shot Ginny another nasty look with flashes of red glinting in his irises and Ginny felt sick.
She wanted to shout out to the girl to stop writing to this horrid creature, stop spilling her heart out to this horrid creature for it would one day shatter into a million pieces, stop trusting this horrid creature for it would one day become the fear of her life...leaving her heart with someone that could irrevocably crush it.
Tears formed in her eyes as the eleven-year-old girl continued to write, idly turning the page, as the handsome boy continued his facade of a benign figure.
She was still frozen as memories of her first year and the aftermath continued to enclose her, trap her feelings in a box that had never really left but had always been hidden, coming out when she was most vulnerable, and haunting her as if it was just yesterday that an eleven year old girl tried to flush her fears down the toilet.
The eleven-year-old girl continued writing with a face of smiles and curiosity. Memories of Harry came to the forefront, and Ginny flinched for a second, coming out of her reverie, tears falling down lightly as her mind pounded and became overwhelmed at all the pain and confusion Riddle had imposed on her for a whole year, characterised by the nasty look Riddle was again giving her. Thunder boomed and lightning flashed again.
What if Harry had forgotten everything they'd ever shared? Her heart began to clench at the question, but the words "silver lining" reached her mind and her eyes widened. She had left her heart with Harry, and she knew without a doubt that he was one of the best people she ever knew. He was honest, he was kind, he was a friend, he was funny, he was attractive…. He was everything Tom had pretended to be except Harry was nothing, nothing like Tom at all.
Ginny's mind started clearing rapidly, tears still dancing down her face. She tried to think of something funny, but at that moment she wanted nothing more than to punish Tom for all the pain and fear he had put her through in her first year and the years afterward. She looked at the eleven-year-old girl who started to glare at the book and the desk. She looked at Tom, who looked shocked and angry at his loss of power and influence. She blinked. She had an idea.
Ginny closed her eyes, imagined a scenario, raised her wand, and shouted, "Riddikulus!"
The glaring eleven-year-old girl jumped up, took her book, cleaned it with every spell she knew, and threw it Tom's face with a force not unlike the Bat-Bogey Hex. Ginny smiled. The eleven-year-old girl then shoved the desk, toppled it over and watched as it pinned Tom to the floor. At that moment, Ginny couldn't help but laugh at Tom Riddle's, Lord Voldemort's, defeat in an utterly Muggle way by none other than an eleven-year-old girl.
She heard laughter behind her, and found she finally had the freedom move as she wiped her eyes and face and walked shakily back by the couch, where Neville was standing and looking at her with a mixture of amusement, fear, and awe.
She stood up next to him and put her arms around his upper back, and hugged him, and Neville hugged her back. Her muscles relaxed.
It was a while before they broke apart and Neville spoke. "I was scared as hell, you know? Ten more seconds and I would've gone up there and try to defeat it myself. You were shouting all sorts of things, and I had to cast a Silencing charm and everything, and you were shaking terribly, and you couldn't move at all, and then there was that girl writing on the desk and Riddle too...but you pulled through. You did great."
Ginny still felt shaken, but she smiled at him, touched. "Ten more seconds and I might have collapsed...God, we did boggarts in class and it seemed so easy, but then you face it with just two people and it's just awful… it's like a dementor's in the room.," she paused, and then remembered something else Neville had said, "Was I really shouting? I don't remember it...I just remember standing there and feeling like...like...feeling hopeless."
Neville nodded and answered her. "You were saying things about the girl with the diary...eleven-year-old you, Riddle, and Harry too...I don't remember exactly what, but don't worry, your secret's safe with me." Ginny smiled at Neville, but she jolted when he said that last bit. If only he knew how much she feared yet valued that…but maybe he did. She had told Neville about her boggart before.
Neville looked over to the couch with the boggart and motioned for Ginny to do the same.
"Your boggart's not gone yet," said Neville. There was a hint of curiosity in his voice.
Ginny was surprised, but there was no mistake. Tom remained there, book on his face and desk on his chest while her younger self was laughing. "What do you reckon we do?" she asked.
Neville joined his hands and cracked his knuckles. He looked scared, but Ginny saw determination making its way across his face. "I'll go up there, it's my turn," he said.
He couldn't! He had detention and was probably terribly tired. He was in no way fit to fight a boggart.
"Neville, no!" she shouted.
Ginny made to get up, intending to push him gently back onto the couch and face the boggart herself, but Neville shook his head.
"Even if you did beat it again, it wouldn't go away. I'll do it; we can get rid of it."
Ginny opened her mouth to retort, but Neville beat her to it. "Professor Lupin told us we have to confuse the boggart. You did great beating it the first time, but it'll keep wearing you down 'till you can't fight it anymore. Fighting it with two people isn't great either, but it'll help confuse it. If we're lucky, it'll be gone after I go up. Just let me handle it, okay? I can do this."
Ginny was hesitant. That was true, she supposed, but still...on a normal day, she knew Neville could do it, but tonight...she didn't know. She was about to say no, but she registered the steely resolve on Neville's face. Ginny nodded at him, sat down, wand raised, ready to help at the first sign of trouble.
Her past self, the diary, the desk and Tom finally disappeared. Thunder boomed and lightning flashed again. The couch shook and Neville jumped back but Ginny remained sitting and watching Neville carefully. A new figure emerged from the couch and Ginny scowled at it in immense dislike. It was a tall, hook-nosed man with a sallow face marred with long, untamed, greasy black hair.
"Snape," Ginny thought bitterly. It was still him after all these years, and she hated Snape all the more for it.
"Neville!" she shouted, "don't let him get you down!"
She looked at Neville closely. He did not move, and his face seemed set, but Ginny knew better. Neville's arms and legs were shaking and his widened eyes betrayed his façade of steely resolve.
Ginny's mind went into overdrive. Neville was handling this no better than she had at first, and she was scared. Scared for him, and scared for the consequences. She knew Neville had worked so hard to work up the courage to help continue Dumbledore's Army, to stand up to Snape, but she knew better than most people that it was one thing to try to get over something and another thing entirely to actually get over something. It took a lot of time and effort on her part to begin getting over Tom and she still wasn't done yet.
Neville started shouting, just like she supposedly had. "I-I'm not st-stupid, I-I'm not wor-wort-worthless...no! I-I c-can do...ma-magic! You-you're wr-wrong!" Ginny wanted to get up and help, but she knew that Neville would never want it. He was fighting, she knew, but his words were feeble...part of Neville still believed all those hurtful words Snape had ever said to him and the boggart was feasting on that.
Neville's legs began trembling and although boggart-Snape wasn't saying anything, Ginny knew that it was affecting Neville in a horrible way. It wasn't a question of bravery anymore: Neville needed help, but Ginny knew she wasn't in the state of mind or body to conquer the boggart.
Neville was shouting again. "N-not a-a Ha-Harry Po-Potter fana-fanatic! No! You wait...y-you wait...I-I'll show y-you...j-just you w-wait!" Ginny bristled with anger. The Snape in Neville's mind was trying to take away Neville's strength of character when Neville had worked so hard trying to build it up...and now it was being dismantled right before her eyes. Thunder boomed and lightning flashed. The brief illumination the lightning provided served only to make Snape seem more terrifying and Neville seem more fearful.
Ginny shouted, trying to do something, anything she could to help. "Dumbledore's Army! C'mon Neville, we promised to stand up to Snape and the Carrows! You're better than him, you're worth twelve of him! More than twelve!"
Neville made no indication that he heard her. Ginny fumed at Snape, although there was no way Snape could see it. Whatever boggart Snape was doing by just standing there, he seemed to have Neville trapped.
Neville was shouting again, and Ginny nearly jumped out of her seat, but she reminded herself that she had promised Neville to let him deal with this on his own. She stayed put, hating herself for doing so. "Worthless, talentless, hopeless, incompetent, fine! You win! Happy? Lack of character…." Thunder boomed and lightning flashed, but Neville's face was hidden this time.
He was believing it! Ginny was seething now. Boggart-Snape had actually convinced Neville he was all of those things when he wasn't...not at all. Neville was kind, brave, thoughtful, considerate, smart...when she saw Snape next…. Ginny balled up her fists and clenched her wand so tight she thought she might break it. She didn't care if she got a detention or not. Severus Snape was not going to be a happy person in the morning.
Ginny's mind floundered around furiously, thinking of something to say, though she hardly knew what or if it would even help. She remembered telling Harry one day that, "anything's possible if you've got enough nerve." It was her motto, words she absolutely lived by, but maybe it could help Neville. If he could hear her anyway.
"Neville, you've got the ner-" Ginny started, but she got no further, because suddenly, the words weren't needed.
She wasn't sure if Neville heard her and that was what spurned him into action or if something hit his mind like it had hit hers. Whatever the cause may have been, Ginny saw him and noticed his still standing body. Ginny looked up to Neville's face and saw the stubborn, determined look she so often saw on Harry and Professor Lupin's faces as he opened his mouth and quietly, but firmly whispered, "Riddikulus!"
Boggart-Sna pe transformed right there and then and suddenly, Ginny saw her former Potions professor standing there with a big, shiny red handbag, dark, silky, green witch's robes, and a hat she had seen on the head of one elderly Mrs. Longbottom. She smiled; Neville had made it through! She looked at Neville, and saw tears in his eyes, but he was laughing weakly and coughing, and suddenly, she was laughing, and Boggart-Snape looked at them in bewilderment before it shrank, and disappeared with a "pop!"
A few minutes passed before Ginny and Neville finally stopped laughing. The boggart had tortured them both enough and Neville's Riddikulus curse had driven it to confusion. It was gone, and Ginny felt her body relax. It was gone, it was over, the worst of another Halloween had passed.
Ginny looked at Neville. He had dropped to his knees and now knelt there on the common room ground, panting, eyes closed, and tears bordering his eyelids.
Ginny put her wand on the couch, ran up to Neville, and hugged him. She felt arms around her back. Neville had hugged her back.
They stayed that way for a while reveling in the quietness of the common room and the warmth of a friend's comforting embrace after dabbling in the chill of their worst fears. It was the kind of moment neither of them had had in a very long time. It was comfortable, but with a twinge of unfamiliarity.
Ginny uncircled her arms from Neville and motioned for the two of them to sit on the couch. It was a long time before either of them spoke.
Ginny looked outside. The storm seemed to have stopped, and she paused. Everything seemed so quiet now. It was an odd feeling; quietness was rare these days with the Carrows around. Ginny twisted her hair around her finger idly before she turned to Neville.
"Your boggart's still Snape?" she asked.
"Yes," replied Neville as he squirmed in his seat. He seemed uncomfortable to be discussing this in detail.
Ginny was incensed. "After all this time?!"
Neville hung his head and put it in his hands. He appeared to be ashamed. Scared. Hopeless. He lifted his face and looked at Ginny. "Always," he whispered.
Ginny closed her eyes and looked at the wall, imagined it to be Snape, and imagined her and every member of the DA, Harry, Ron, Hermione, Dean, Fred, George, Angelina, Alicia, Katie, Colin, Dennis, and Cho included shouting and screaming at it.
"It's just so unfair," Ginny thought. She knew that Neville had always been a bit of an insecure person, especially when Snape was involved, and the fact that Snape still tormented him and remained Neville's worst fear angered and hurt her on behalf of her friend.
"We're going to stand up to him Neville. You're going to stand up to him and damn the consequences, I'm gonna be there too, and I know Luna will too. You've got friends to support you. Snape may think you're worthless but why does he have to count? Who cares what he thinks?"
Neville shifted in his seat, as if he was unsure what to do. After a few seconds of silence, he came to a conclusion. "Thanks...I've tried to get past it and I still am, but the way that boggart looked at me...it felt like I was in third year again, back to the start. I'll try, I really will, and I appreciate the help, but I'm just...I don't know if..." He seemed to struggle to finish the sentence.
Ginny finished for him. "You don't know if you'll ever make it?"
Neville nodded. "Yeah. Some days it's okay and all, but others are just terrible."
Ginny was empathetic. "Nah, don't worry about that. I get it too, you know? Some days I'm comfortable with it. Two years ago, I was able to talk about Tom with Harry to convince him he didn't attack my dad. But today...well...I haven't fell apart like that since...," she frowned, remembering some of the nightmares she'd had the days after Sirius died, "well...never mind. It happens sometimes."
Neville ignored the last bit, much to Ginny's relief. "How long has Riddle's diary been your boggart?" asked Neville.
Ginny looked up thoughtfully. "You know, it's strange. We learned boggarts with," Ginny's heart gave a little lurch, "Professor Moody. Ron told me about boggarts the summer before and everyone, Bill and Charlie and Percy were there too, just went around, sharing boggart stories. I didn't know my boggart then, but I always thought it'd be Tom. Then I got to Professor Moody's class, and I saw my boggart, and it wasn't Tom at all. I just saw myself, writing in a diary...Tom didn't appear until later...I guess I wasn't really afraid of Tom...just afraid of trusting someone and getting stabbed in the back later. That shit hurts...more than anyone can understand."
She knew she hadn't really answered question, at least, not in the way he had asked it, but she just realised how long she'd been keeping this all in and it seemed to help just talking and knowing someone was listening. She had talked about it with Harry of course, but old fears always came back in odd ways. Harry knew that, Hermione knew that, her parents and brothers knew that, and Neville here definitely knew that.
Neville looked the wall, away from Ginny, fidgeting with his hair. "I trusted Professor Moody before I found out he was a Death Eater in disguise. He praised my Herbology. He gave me confidence, like Professor Lupin did. Then I learned he was a Death Eater...and I felt all confused. Did he lie? Was he just playing a part? I reckon I get how it feels when you feel betrayed. A lot of people probably do too, actually. It's just you feel a lot more towards it than others. I mean, Snape probably makes a lot of people feel like shit...it just affects me the most, I guess."
She turned to him, oddly comforted. "You know, no one's ever talked about my boggart like that before. Not ever. It's super helpful though...you're a real good friend, you know that? You always have been," said Ginny.
Neville looked flustered but smiled back anyway. "Same to you. Actually...while we're on the topic of boggarts...can you promise me something?" he asked.
Ginny shrugged. "Go ahead," she said.
Neville looked slightly uneasy. "You said you and Luna'd help me with my boggart, right?" he asked.
Ginny looked at him curiously, not sure where this was going. "Right, yeah. I am serious about that, if that's what you're asking," she replied.
Neville shook his head. "No, no, that's not it. It's just...you're still fighting Riddle and I just want to say...Luna and I, we'll be there, we'll help you if you need it."
He said no more and Ginny was confused. "Thanks...but what d'you want me to promise?"
Neville looked at her straight in the eye before replying. "I want you to promise not to shut yourself off from any of us."
Ginny looked at him right back. Neville knew her enough to understand her stubborness. But she knew Neville too, and she knew he could be just as stubborn as Harry sometimes. "Only if you won't either," she shot back.
Neville was unperturbed. "Alright, sure," he said.
Ginny wasn't done yet. "I want you to promise that you'll accept that sometimes I just can't and won't talk about everything. I appreciate the help, but I don't want to be pushed around either." She trusted Neville, but she also wanted to maintain her own personal space.
Neville didn't do so much as even flinch. "Only if you promise to do the same by me," said Neville.
Ginny nodded, unsurprised and unhesitatingly. "Yeah, alright. Sure," she said.
They smiled at each other and hugged each other again, a multitude of unspoken thank yous passing between them. Ginny relaxed. She was the most peaceful she had been in a very long time.
A few moments passed by before Ginny broke off the hug, walking over to the couch near the fireplace...wait...fireplace?
"Nev ille, did you see the fire when you walked in?" asked Ginny, "I swear, I didn't see it at all."
Neville shook his head. He looked equally amazed at the burning flame. "That's odd, it wasn't on when I walked in," replied Neville. He paused, looking thoughtful and continued, "maybe it just turned on by itself, I dunno."
Ginny shrugged. "Maybe...makes for a nice change of pace though, doesn't it?" she asked.
Neville nodded. "It does, I guess," he said.
A few minutes passed and everything was silent except for the soft crackling of the Common Room fire. "The fire really is a nice change of pace in comparison to thunder," Ginny thought to herself.
Ginny stared at the fire for some time, she wasn't sure how long, but then Neville's voice broke the silence.
"Have you ever had the feeling that you're falling head over shoulders for a close friend?" asked Neville. He sounded slightly uncomfortable to Ginny's ears.
The question took a while to register in Ginny's head. Her eyes widened and her breath hitched. Wait...he didn't mean her, right? She loved him like a brother but...well, there was only one way to find out.
Ginny took a deep breath and faced Neville and said, "Neville, I love you. You're one of my best friends, partners in crime, right? But I don't, I can't...we're just-"
Neville cut her off, his eyes wide too. He seemed frantic. "No, no, no, that's not...that's not what I meant...no way...I've never...," he rambled, unable to finish.
He seemed lost for a moment, but then he looked at Ginny with something that Ginny figured was incredulity. "Where on Earth did you get that from?" he asked.
Ginny's face flushed although she could feel herself relaxing. So that wasn't it after all. "I just thought, well, you know, you asked me about fancying someone close, and we're close, and then there's the fireplace, and that's romantic, or at least it's supposed to be," Ginny closed her eyes. This was not going well, "so I thought that maybe you did, and I guess I was wrong, right?" she asked lamely.
Ginny shifted uncomfortably, trying and failing not to look at Neville. She'd been in this situation before with other people, and she handled it fine then, but she did not want to have this conversation with Neville. Neville was frowning. Did he feel the same thing?
Neville sat down, his expression becoming slightly bewildered. He looked at Ginny and spoke slowly. "No, I've never...you're my best friend...I love you like a sister almost. Besides, I asked because I kind of, sort of fancy someone else...," Neville looked away from Ginny. His neck was turning red.
Ginny felt some of the awkwardness of the situation drain and her interest was suddenly piqued. She tapped his shoulder, and when Neville turned around, she smiled at him before dissolving into a rainstorm of questions.
"Does she know? Do you guys talk? What's she like? Do I know her? Wait, if it's someone from the DA, I probably do know her! Are you going to ask her out? I mean, dating opportunities are going to be...," she paused for a moment, "pretty thin on the ground, to be honest, but you could ask. If she rejects you, wait, never mind actually, hang on, scratch that, if she rejects you, don't take it too badly, but if she says yes...Neville! Why didn't you tell me before?"
Neville looked distinctly bewildered. "I find it very hard to believe people still think you're quiet and shy," he said.
Ginny blushed. "That was only around Harry all the way back then...do people really think that? I never thought I gave off that impression. I mean, I'm not friends with everyone, but that doesn't mean...well, never mind. Hang on, we're getting sidetracked, now answer the question!" Ginny looked around the room and then added hastily, "Well, if you want to, that is."
Neville raised his eyebrows. "Question one or question eighty?" he asked playfully.
Ginny mock scowled at him, and Neville seemed to want to laugh.
"All of them, even question ninety," shot back Ginny.
Neville stopped shaking in laughter and the room grew quieter than before, and the fireplace seemed to shine brighter. Neville looked nervous and opened his mouth and spoke slowly, "Just...don't tell anyone, okay? She's one of my closest friends and I don't want to risk that or anything by messing it up."
One of his closest friends? How had she not noticed? Ginny ran a list through her head. That could only mean two people...Hermione, and she knew Neville didn't like her like that, not since the Yule Ball, at least. That left Luna...Ginny's head twitched for a moment. Could it be Luna? It might be; they got along pretty well and there was the odd blush or two...on both sides.
Ginny sighed internally. If Neville really did fancy Luna, and Neville was scared of messing something up with their friendship, then she felt it was Neville who needed make the leap of confidence. And while she'd love to tell him that...this was something Neville needed to learn himself. She resolved that she would keep quiet on that front, half hating, half praising herself for doing so.
But Ginny was empathetic so far as this was concerned. She knew Neville would pull it together eventually. She took a deep breath, and said, "I promise."
Neville took a deep breath and said, "I-I fancy Luna. We took to writing to each other this past summer, and I guess I realised how much I missed her and how much I liked hanging around with her...but I wasn't sure if I fancied her then."
Ginny smiled. This sounded an awful lot like what Harry told her last year. It also sounded an awful lot like what she felt around Christmas last year too. "When'd you realise you had the hots for Luna?" she asked playfully.
Neville blushed but continued, "Don't put it that way! And anyways, it was on the Hogwarts Express. We just started talking while you were looking out the window and I mean, I didn't have too much to add when she brought up those creatures I've never heard about, and she didn't have too much to add when I brought up Herbology, but then we started talking about the DA and it was just so fun and then later she tapped my arm when the trolley came by because I was sleeping and then I just felt these goosebumps you know? And then, well, yeah, I sort of got it then."
Ginny was grinning now, and she couldn't stop for the life of her. "Oh, this was definitely familiar," she thought reminiscently.
She decided to tease him a bit. She wasn't sure if he'd get it or not, but it was worth a shot to lighten him up a bit. It'd help her too a little, remembering better days. She launched a barrage of questions, "No forbidden dreams that someone would have your hide for? No green monsters camping around in your chest? No dramatic fantasies of her professing her deepest love for you?"
Neville blinked at her, but looked amused, most awkwardness gone. "Where the hell are you getting this from?"
Ginny simply smiled, remembering the day of and days after the Quidditch Cup, Harry telling her how he realised he fancied her and Ginny telling him how she realised she fancied him and both of them just talking and kissing and talking and laughing all by the glorious sun-lit lake.
Neville continued to look dumbfounded before he came to a conclusion, "Hang on, you can't be...you mean, Harry did all that?" Neville looked stunned.
Ginny nodded. "It was adorable. I told him that too and he sort of scrunched up his face, yeah, like what you're doing now, and he told me it wasn't, that it was totally embarrassing, and it turned into a bit of a word war actually. Face 'glowing like the setting sun,' I won't ever forget that one."
Ginny smiled and reminisced, and looked back at Neville, but something else seemed to be on his mind. She looked at him curiously. "Knut for your thoughts?" she asked tentatively.
Neville looked pensive as he turned to Ginny. "Did you ever know that Harry fancied you? Before the Quidditch Cup?" he asked nervously.
Ginny thought for a moment. "Well...yes," Neville's face fell and Ginny added quickly, "but I never made him uncomfortable about it, and he never made me uncomfortable about it. Keep your calm, and you'll be fine Neville. Luna doesn't bite, you should know that by now."
Neville's strained look told Ginny that something was still wrong. It was a while before he spoke, looking determinedly away from Ginny. "Do you think she'd say yes if I asked her out?"
Ginny froze. This was not going to be an easy question to answer. She sighed before answering. "Look Neville, just ask her. Or if she likes you, maybe she'll ask you out. If you guys end up going out, then that's great, I think you guys make each other happy. If not, then let it go and don't be an arse about it. You two've been friends for two years and you need to take confidence in that one way or another eventually. D'you get that?"
Ginny let out a breath. Did she say that right? She hoped she did...she didn't want to fill Neville with false confidence nor discouragement.
Neville's brows were furrowed in concentration. It was a while before he spoke. "I guess so. So just, you know, be myself, and if it works fine, and if it doesn't, just move on?"
Ginny nodded vigorously, he'd hit the nail on the head. "People sometimes say it's corny advice, but I learned the hard way that you should never change yourself for someone. Being yourself can go a long way," she said firmly.
Neville nodded. "I'll try. I'll be nervous as hell, but I can try," Neville looked at her and continued, "It's like with you and Harry right?"
Ginny sighed and was about to correct Neville's use of the present tense, but gave up the thought quickly. Neville and Luna knew about the situation more than anyone else. "Yeah, kind of," she replied, not really wanting to go too much more into the break-up.
The room was silent for a few moments. Ginny wasn't sure what else to say, but she didn't fancy going to bed either. She looked outside, and it was still dark, but the storm, she noticed with a start, seemed to be over.
Neither one of them made any motion to move, but Neville suddenly broke the silence. "Harry'll come back soon enough, you know. We'll all fight and kick Riddle's arse and then you and Harry can get back together and get back to doing couple-y things or whatever it is you guys do."
Ginny laughed softly. "Couple-y things? Really Neville? You sound like Ron when I asked him to describe his fling with Lavender last year," she scrunched up her face and tried to imitate Ron, "'Ah well...you know how it is, right Ginny? Couple-y things and all that, kissing, snogging, laughing, and talking I guess...,'" she laughed a little again, "'talking I guess.' Merlin, if Lavender had been there then...well, I asked him if he changed what he meant by 'couple-y things' a bit before he left. Thankfully, he seems to have learned his lesson."
Neville was blushing, but Ginny plowed on, "But thank you Neville, I mean it, I really do, I guess I just really needed to hear that. It helps, you know, hoping and remembering..."
Neville smiled and laughed nervously, but then his face turned serious. "Don't mention it. Anyway...if I ask Luna out and she says yes...she won't expect I know everything about couple-y stuff, right?" he asked nervously.
He was nervous! Oh, that was not what she was going for at all! Ginny put her hands to her mouth. "My big damn mouth again...I didn't mean to offend you Neville, honest, I didn't, I was just teasing I swear, sorry, I get really, really excited when I talk sometimes and I don't always mean what I say, well sometimes I do, but not always, wait, shit, shouldn't have said that, I meant t-"
Neville tapped her on the shoulder and cut her off. Ginny looked at him sheepishly. Neville paused for a moment and said, "No, I got that you were teasing me, that's alright, you didn't offend me, not at all. You just started talking about Lavender and Ron and couple-y things and I just wondered if Luna'd expect that I know anything about it...because I don't. Not much, anyway."
Ginny was relieved Neville didn't take her teasing the way she thought he did because while many people laughed at her jokes, Neville was one of the few (like her brothers, Harry, Hermione, Dean, and Seamus) who laughed at her teasing. She took a deep breath and turned to Neville. "Well, I don't think Luna has ever dated anyone...and in that case, well, I think you both will be patient, if not immediately, then later at least...but I think you two can work it out."
Neville nodded. "Alright, I guess I can do that...yeah. Thanks Ginny," he said, sounding grateful.
"No problem," she replied. She hoped she was able to help him out, but at the same time, she hoped she didn't just spoon feed him. She thought Neville and Luna'd make a cute couple, but as far as Ginny was concerned, they had to figure things out between them by themselves for the most part.
Ginny felt something in her throat-was that a yawn coming up? But no, it wasn't she realised, as she felt a sudden tingling in her nose. She took deep breaths, trying to delay the inevitable, but let out a resounding, "ACHOOOGHH!"
Neville opened his mouth, but Ginny held her hand up to his face, and all too suddenly, "ACHOOOGHH!" she sneezed again.
Neville opened his mouth again, looking far too amused, but Ginny scowled at him, motioning for him to keep his mouth shut before letting out another, "ACHOOOGHH!"
"I think that's ov-" Neville started, but he was cut off again.
"ACHOOOGHH!" Ginny sneezed a fourth time. She took deep breaths, trying to figure out whether or not another sneeze was on its way. "Well, al-ACHOOGHH! Dammit! Am I done now?" She paused. "Good," she said after a few seconds of no sneezing.
Ginny looked at Neville. He was smiling! Neville let out a snort. And trying to laugh!
"What's so funny?" she asked. This question appeared to be too much for Neville because he started laughing out right.
"Your sneeze," he started, taking deep breaths, "is just like Ron's," he took more breaths, "strangled ending and all."
"It does not!" Ginny shouted disbelievingly. "My sneezes are much, much, much more nicer sounding than Ron's!"
Neville shook his head. "They both sound like snores. You ought to compare it to Dean's sneezes sometime. Those sound amazing. For a sneeze at least."
Ginny looked thoughtful. "Dean tried to sing sometimes. There's this one octave he could never reach, but I told him he always reaches it when he sneezes. I probably shouldn't have told him that actually, he spent an entire morning once trying to sneeze to test the theory," she shook her head fondly, "we don't really work well as a couple, but he's extremely funny and kind...I hope he's okay...no one's seen him in months...," she finished sadly.
"Dean'll be fine. He's a fighter. He'll stick it out, just like Harry, Ron, and Hermione. No news is good news, right?" Neville told her reassuringly.
Ginny sighed. "I guess, it's just terrifying...not knowing...about any of them...," she perked up suddenly. "Hang on...hey! Turn on the radio! Maybe Potterwatch is on! See if we can find out something!"
Neville scrambled to his feet, heading toward the common room radio. "Merlin, it's been a while since I've heard the last show, don't even know the password," said Neville.
Ginny thought for a moment. "I listened to it two weeks ago, the next password was supposed to be 'Prongs.' Try it, see if it works," she called after him.
Neville nodded, fiddling with the dials on the the radio, muttering 'Prongs' as Ginny made her way toward him.
Ginny sat by Neville near the radio, both of them listening intently, hoping to catch something on the airwaves. Ginny tensed in anticipation. News, good news at least, was scarce around Hogwarts these days. Pottermore was an option, but connecting to the show was difficult. The shows weren't regularly scheduled; they could be spread out anywhere from a day or two to three weeks. Sometimes even Pottermore didn't have any news to give out, but Ginny's heart still raced whenever the show came on; it was confirmation to her, that while information couldn't be exchanged from Hogwarts to her friends and family, she could hear, have physical evidence that some of the people she cared about were alive and fighting in whatever way they could.
Nothing happened for a while as Neville continued to fiddle with the dials, muttering 'Prongs,' every now and then, and Ginny felt disappointment fill her insides, as she looked away from the radio. Fred and George were participants in every Potterwatch show Ginny had ever listened to and she missed hearing their voices and laughter every day. It was like she was seven again, although back then, fear didn't constantly nag her in the back of her mind.
Neville gasped and tapped Ginny on the shoulder. "Ginny, listen! I hear voices, don't you?" he said excitedly.
Ginny turned her head so that her ear was near the speaker of the radio. She heard a faint buzzing noise coupled with a few instances of unrecognisable humans muttering words. Her mind went into overdrive, imagining the possibilities and the people she might hear and the news that might somehow bring her happiness or fear and sadness for weeks to come. "I can hear something! Mess around with the dials some more, Neville. Merlin, I think you got in! This is great!"
Neville started playing around with the frequency and volume dials, his rapid movement betraying the calm, determined look on his face. A few seconds passed. One more minute passed. Another one was about to pass, but suddenly, "I got it, we can hear them now Ginny! Listen!" exclaimed Neville.
Neville and Ginny bent over and put their ears close to the speaker. Ginny was trembling with excitement, ready to hear any and all news the show could tell them. A voice started to speak.
"Well, that about wraps the show tonight. Thanks for having me here, River, anything you'd like to add? And you Roulette, Rodent?" reported a familiar male voice. Ginny felt mild disappointment at missing the show, but her mind was racing as she tried to figure out who was speaking. The voice was deep...kind of hoarse...wait hang on...it was Lupin!
"Harry, and whoever else that's out there, supporting him, I hope you're doing alright, and hopefully, I got some laughs out from you, because while this is a news show, I think I can speak for all of the hosts here tonight that we also want to raise spirits," there was a murmur of agreement coming from the radio, agreeing with the familiar female voice. "Also, Harry, if you're out there listening...do us proud, be safe and kick some arse and be every bit the leader my late former boss, Deputy Ringleader was. It'll do you some good. This is Roulette, signing off. Rodent, anything to add? Apart from name complaints?" asked the familiar female voice. Ginny thought to herself for a moment...it had to be Tonks! It made sense to her anyhow...Roulette...Tonks's Metamorphmagus powers...Deputy Ringleader...late former boss...could that be Moody?
A male voice grumbled in irritation. "I swear...I tell River every time that I want my name to be Rapier...but noooo, it's always 'Rodent,' come on! Even 'Hyena' sounds better! And I laugh more than him anyway!" exclaimed the familiar male voice in indignation. Ginny bit her tongue to prevent herself from laughing. This was definitely, undeniably Fred. If she had to guess, Hyena was probably George.
Laughter subsequent grumbling came from the radio. "Well anyway, sorry about that, I'm not normally this whiny, but if you want to blame someone, blame River. But forget that. To everyone out there listening, it's a bit of a weird broadcast time, I know, but keep safe before doing something stupid, which sounds odd coming from me, but Dark Mark reports are growing longer than Merlin's beard, so it's needed.
Fred took a breath, paused, and then continued, "To our friends at Hogwarts...especially my sister...you know what to do. Give them hell, and get Peeves's help, if you can. Tell him Rodent ordered it.
Fred sniffled, and Ginny thought he might actually be crying a little bit. Fred continued, "To Harry...we miss you back here, so go out there, be safe, laugh a bit, destroy You-Know-Who, preferably with some U-No-Poo, we'll all help to be sure, and come back home. In one piece. Just the way we all like you. So don't go ahead and do something stupid. This is Rodent, signing off. River, Romulus, anything else?"
"No, nothing else. You ended well, Rodent. I'll add something next week, perhaps. Good luck Harry, stay safe everyone, and good luck. This is Romulus, signing off. River?" added Remus.
"Well, there you have it folks. October 31st, Halloween in other words, has been terrible this year, but our hearts are there with the deceased and their family and friends, Muggle or wizard, it doesn't matter. Everyone listening in tonight is hopefully fighting for the same cause, and we're here to give you listeners true news and genuine laughter. Our only hope is that we're doing well by you all. We don't know when we'll be able to broadcast again, it's been chaos these past few days, but we'll be back some day or another. The next password is 'Doe.' Thank you for listening, and good night from all of us," finished Lee.
The voices all muttered a 'good night,' before the show ended, and Ginny and Neville were simply staring at a radio emitting noises like a crinkling piece of parchment. Tonight's show made her uneasy with Lee's comment at the end, but she was grateful she could hear the voices of some of her friends and family. She and Neville looked at each other and shared a smile. Her family...her friends...they were still out there, somewhere, fighting...and she couldn't express just how proud she was of all of them.
Neville broke the reigning silence. "We didn't learn much except for that bit at the end, but at least we heard them. Still sucks that we didn't learn anything about Dean though," he finished dully.
Ginny sighed. "I guess we just have to trust that he's alright...we can't dwell on it...but it's hard not to," she replied sadly.
Neville stood up, taking the radio in his hands. "You know what?" he started. "We're not dwelling on it. We can't do anything but worry from here. Here, let's listen to some music. There's bound to be something good to listen to," he told Ginny.
Ginny shrugged, but stood up as she did so. "What channel are you on right now?" she asked him.
Neville looked at the radio. "Channel 19. Why? D'you have something in mind?" he asked her.
"I want to listen to some Weird Sisters, can you turn to Channel 81?" asked Ginny. "They don't always play there, but that's where they show up most."
Neville turned the dials, but with less vigour than before, Ginny noticed. Tuning into music was definitely less stress-inducing than tuning into Potterwatch. "I've got it," he said. Music started playing from the radio. He scrunched up his eyebrows in apparent confusion. "This is a bit slower than normal for the Weird Sisters isn't it?" he asked Ginny. "The drums aren't as loud, neither is the guitar, and the vocals seem calmer too," he commented.
Ginny shook her head. "That's just their popular songs. If you look into some of their other songs, you'll find a good collection of slower songs. They're not always playing hard rock, they can play in a bunch of different styles," responded Ginny.
Neville shrugged his shoulders. "I wouldn't know. I mean, I like this song, but I'm not a Weird Sisters fan. They've always been a bit too...chaotic for me," he told Ginny. "Actually, if I had to put a name to it, I guess I'd be a classical fan," he added offhandedly.
Ginny tilted her head from side to side, thinking of something to say to that. "You're like my dad, come to think of it. He doesn't like the Weird Sisters either, but he's a classical fan. Ron doesn't like them much either. It's mainly Fred, George, Bill, and I that really listen to them in the family," she told Neville. She listened to the song for a few seconds and then added, "I like this song by them. It's talking about a bad day and just...pushing it away, I guess. It's not supposed to sound angry though...sad is a better word."
Ginny looked at Neville, but Neville wasn't looking at her. He seemed to be thinking of something else. "Something bothering you?" she asked him tentatively.
Neville shook his head. "Not really. I was just thinking about this song, and what you said about it and...do you want to dance?" he asked her.
Dance? Now? Well maybe…. Ginny winced, as thoughts of stepped on toes entered her mind. She'd like to dance with Neville, but she hesitated, not sure what to say.
Neville seemed enthusiastic now, but misread Ginny's hesitation. "Oh don't worry! I won't step on your toes this time, I promise! It won't be like the Yule Ball at all!" he told her excitedly. "I've...er...I've sort of been practicing, actually," he added sheepishly, his face going a little red.
Ginny tactfully decided not to ask him about that last bit, but she was certain about one thing, and tried kept a straight face. "Nah, we're going to step on each other's toes, no matter what. You just had detention today, and you're tired as hell. I had detention yesterday, and I could hardly sleep yesterday, so I'm also tired as hell. We'll step on each other's toes and move around like we're more drunk than Hagrid is after three buckets of mead," Ginny told him unashamedly.
Neville looked embarrassed, and opened his mouth to say something, but Ginny smiled at him not unpleasantly, and cut him off before he could say anything. "But, it will be glorious, and it will be fun, and that's just the truth," she finished cheerfully. The song was still playing in the background, not waiting for anyone.
Neville looked at her, hesitating for a second, but then moved forward. "You do realise that we're going to walk around tomorrow like we're more drunk than Hagrid is after three buckets of mead, right?" he asked her, but he didn't look nervous. His smile looked more playful than anything.
Ginny nodded her head, still smiling softly. "Of course," she said unwaveringly. The vocals were singing the chorus now. The song was maybe a fourth of the way done.
Neville shook his head in what Ginny assumed to be mock irritation. He moved forward a little more. "Er...so I just...put my hands on your waist...and...that's it I think, right?" he asked her with a little uncertainty.
Ginny nodded. Neville put his hands on her waist, and Ginny put her hands on his shoulders. "Do you want me to lead, or do you want to?" she asked him.
"You can lead now, I guess. I'll do it later, we can take turns maybe," responded Neville.
"Alright then, let's just...dance," Ginny told him.
Ginny led and Neville followed, and sometimes Neville led and Ginny followed, but no words were exchanged between them for the rest of the night. Toes were stepped on, trips happened now and again, and peaceful moments chimed in from time to time. There were only a few constants, constants that would remain true for always: smiles, laughter, and the intimacy of friendship as Ginny and Neville danced away to the sleepless Halloween.
Notes: I wouldn't have done this note, but I feel like some things should be explained. First, this did not entirely start off as a fanfiction, or at least, not in the way it turned out. This was originally a comment on a tumblr post with me demonstrating my dislike for excuses made to Snape's behavior. This is why I had Neville say "Always," in response to Ginny's "After all this time!?" I thought about changing it, because I really didn't want anyone to misinterpret my point, but I kept it as is. It is also deliberately OOC, because no matter how hard I try to think otherwise, I am fairly certain that neither Ginny nor Neville would speak that way. I legitimately think Snape is still Neville's boggart, though.
Second, there is a part in this one-shot that has Neville expressing disbelief at other people's idea that Ginny is still a quiet, shy girl. This was deliberate as well, and it stems from my disagreement of some parts of the fandom's perception of Ginny as a person. This was not meant to be deliberately OOC.
The third thing has to do with the dancing scene near the end. When I had the idea to make the original idea into a fanfic, I immediately wanted the one-shot to end with Neville and Ginny dancing. There are two reasons for this. One, I really wanted to demonstrate the closeness of Neville and Ginny's friendship. Two, the conception of the scene stemmed from my reaction to the Harry and Hermione dance in the DH Part 1 movie.
Fourth, I've always thought Neville and Ginny were closer friends than canon ever said outright. My musings in this fic are kind of related to that thought.