Neville sat down on the large flat stone right beside Harry, where the other Gryffindor had found refuge. It was a clever place Harry had chosen because the stone was hidden at the foot of a small cliff and only to be reached by a narrow staircase hewn into the stone. It had taken Neville over an hour to find him, and he had already known that Harry had gone down to the Black Lake. Harry had his arms wrapped around his knees and was staring out over the water, while silent tears were running down his face.
"You are not alone with any of this," Neville muttered, putting one arm around Harry's shoulders.
"It's getting worse every year," Harry whispered. "Not just the things that are happening, but also the reactions of the others."
Neville hummed in agreement. Three days had passed since Harry had come back from the last task of the Triwizard Tournament with Cedric's body and everyone was looking at him as if he had killed the Hufflepuff. The actions, or more likely inactions, of the Minister were not helping at all against the rumours surrounding the last task.
"They are blaming me for Cedric's death and calling me a liar, and yet … barely anyone cares that someone has died."
"I wish I could do anything to make them stop," Neville said.
Harry turned a little bit and leaned his head against Neville's shoulder. "You know, you are the only one who has asked over Cedric and how I feel about it. Not even Ron or Hermione have done that."
"They don't know death and loss as we know it. It's still very abstract for them," Neville replied softly. "And I can partly understand why they are more worried about the things that were done to you in this night than about you seeing another person die. I'm worried about that ritual, too."
"It's my fault Cedric died." Harry took a shuddering breath, and then he sobbed. "He wanted me to take the Cup, but I suggested we take it together."
"You couldn't have known that it would be a trap."
"Shouldn't I? What other reason was there for getting me into the Tournament?"
"To see you killed in it," Neville suggested. "That’s what I thought the whole year. That some Death Eater or a child of one had gotten your name into the Goblet of Fire to see you die in the Tournament. Because the chance of an average fourth year getting through this alive is slim at most."
Harry sighed. "Maybe. Still…"
"Cedric went into this Tournament knowing that it could kill him. He knew the risk. And it was Pettigrew who made the decision to kill him, that had nothing to do with you. Crouch would have probably killed him if it would have been the only chance to get you to the Cup before him. If you hadn't come to Cedric's rescue he would have used Krum to torture Cedric into insanity, and that would have been nearly the same."
"And I still don't know why Voldemort is so obsessed with me."
"He is a madman. I'm sure, even if he would try to explain his reasons to anyone, it wouldn't make much sense."
Harry made a sound that was something between a snort and a sob. "Yeah, he thought it was absolutely okay to duel with me. He is five or six times as old as me and has a lot more experience than me, and still thinks some kind of mock duel is alright."
"Like a kneazle playing with its meal."
Harry shuddered. "That's not a metaphor I appropriate!"
Neville laughed slightly. "Sorry."
"He called Cedric the 'spare' , as if … his life was worth nothing."
Neville sighed and petted Harry's hair. "No one's life is worth anything to him, not even that of his own followers. He is cruel and insane, and that is one reason why we have to fight against him."
"I'm tired of fighting", Harry muttered. "I have done nothing else my whole life. I thought my life would get better when I came to Hogwarts, but it's just gotten worse. Sometimes I wish it had worked when my relatives tried to ignore the letters."
Neville closed his eyes. "I'm glad it didn't work because I don't want to imagine not knowing you."
"I guess." Harry shrugged. "I'm glad to have you as my friend, too. And Ron and Hermione. But … to be my friend won't be easy now."
Neville snorted. "It never was easy to be your friend, doesn't mean I'll ever regret being such."
Harry turned his head and drew his legs even more to his body. "You are the only one in that."
"That's not true," Neville protested.
"You saw how Ron reacted at the beginning of the year. And it was not the first time! And Hermione was … trying I guess. Maybe it's unfair, but I resent her for not choosing my side. She should have led Ron rot and stood by my side if she really believed me. And believed in me."
Neville had no idea what to say to that because he agreed with that sentiment. He had been angry at Ron but had not been surprised in the least when the redhead had been one of the first to turn on Harry after Halloween. He had already turned once on Harry out of jealousy when Harry had been pressured into his position on the Quidditch team. And in their second year, he had been as appalled as everyone else about Harry’s abilities as a parselmouth, although he had managed to not show it for most of the time.
It had been at this time that Neville and Harry had started to build a soft and quiet friendship because Neville had not once thought it a bad thing for Harry to be a parselmouth. He knew that it was viewed as dark and even black magic in Britain, but he also knew that this was a fairly recent development and that outside of Britain there were places were parselmouthes were revered. He had taken Harry aside and told him about that, and about the potential parselmagic could offer him.
No one really recognized the friendship they had build in the three years since, but Neville was absolutely okay with this. He thought Harry had earned something that he had not to share with the public, and if that was their friendship he was happy to provide it. He was not sad himself that no one would try to interfere in their friendship this way. It had been so ugly how the Daily Prophet had treated Hermione during most of the Tournament.
"I can't trust either of them to be there for me every time," Harry continued after a while. "Not for the really hard things, at least. Ron would not even try to sit down beside me to help me with my grief, and Hermione would pester me instead of letting me rant."
"You are not giving us a lot of chances to help you with this part. I had to search for an hour for you!"
"But you did search and you found me. Are Ron or Hermione searching for me?"
Nevilles sighed. "No." He had suggested it to Hermione, but she had told him to give Harry his space, and with Ron, he had not even tried because he would never again trust Ron with Harry’s wellbeing.
"They are there for the action, and that's okay, I guess. They have been really helpful for those parts in the last years. They are keeping me alive and you are keeping me sane, so every one of my friends has their own role, right?"
"I would be honoured to keep you alive as well," Neville muttered darkly.
"Maybe next year. I'm sure it will just get worse from now on. I don't think Voldemort will wait very long to get back were he was fourteen years ago with raining terror over the whole country."
"You need to be better prepared for the next confrontation with him," Neville said. "It was his arrogance that gave you the chance to escape. Have you thought at all about studying parselmagic in earnest?"
"I want you to survive whatever is to come, Harry. And with Voldemort targeting you, that means you have to be prepared to fight for your life. I think we have ample evidence that the adults won't do anything to protect you."
"How could I ever reach a point at which I'd be able to defeat him?" Harry asked irritated. "I've only known about magic for four years and he is already studying it for decades."
"I don't think that's true," Neville replied. "Don't you even want to try to survive?"
"I… sometimes I'm not sure, why I should keep fighting, really." Harry sighed deeply. "For a moment there … in the graveyard, there was a moment when I contemplated to just not get up and let him kill me."
Neville swallowed hard. "Why didn't you?"
"I don't know. I … guess I didn't want to give him the triumph."
"It would break my heart if you died!" Neville said harshly. "If … if you can't find a reason to fight for yourself, please fight for those of us who you would leave behind. I know that's … selfish, but I really don't want to lose you!"
"What reason is there to fight for if everyone is just calling me a liar and not believing me? Why should I fight for anyone in this damn country after what they did to my godfather and keep doing to him and probably others in Askaban? Fudge just killed Crouch Jr. without even questioning him, let alone giving him a trial. How many others are in jail without a trial and probably being innocent?"
"I'm not asking you to fight for anyone else but me and Sirius and yourself. And maybe Ron and Hermione," Neville muttered.
"Do you think … leaving would be an option?"
"Leaving where?" Neville asked confused.
Harry shrugged. "Somewhere that's not Great Britain. Somewhere, where Sirius and I can lead a quiet and peaceful life."
Neville took the time to think about his answer. Most people in Britain were so self-centred, they would probably not even contemplate that their hero had left the country if they even would search for him instead of just complaining that he had vanished when there was still a Dark Lord to defeat. But there were others who would search and look all over the world.
"And if Voldemort would follow you?" Neville asked. "He is so obsessed with you … I can't imagine, that he would let you just go. Or that he will stop with conquering Great Britain."
"You are right," Harry muttered. "And Dumbledore is probably the same. I think … he has his own plans for me."
"I want to make a battle plan with you," Neville said. "I want to help you prepare and give you any weapon we can find against Voldemort. I have the whole summer to search the library at home. You could even come with me!"
Harry shook his head. "Dumbledore insists that I go back to the Dursleys. As if … He once told me my mother's blood was protecting me in this house. But I can't see how that could still be tru after Voldemort took my blood to resurrect himself."
"It's not really your blood, but the magical properties that your blood holds which he needed, I think. Your blood isn't in his body, it was destroyed when it was added to the potion," Neville explained. "It's not so easy to disrupt a blood protection. But I don't see how you have been ever safe there with how they are treating you."
"That is … somewhat reassuring."
"Next year will be hard, with our OWLs and all, but I really think we should set a little bit of time aside every week to train together," Neville continued with his original line of thought. "I can use the summer to prepare and I should be old enough for grandma to let me go alone to Diagon Alley, so I can probably buy a trunk with a library compartment and bring a copy of any book back with me that I think could be useful."
"What could be useful against a Dark Lord?” Harry asked sceptically.
Neville shrugged. "No idea. I still think you should try parselmagic."
Harry stared out over the lake for a long while without saying anything. "Physical training could be helpful. They … everyone here is so focused on using magic, I think it would completely floor them if someone used anything other against them."
"What do you mean with 'other'?"
"I killed the Basilisk with a sword. And there are muggle fighting techniques. It could be something to give us an advantage."
"Us," Neville muttered.
"If you expect me to get through this alive, I expect the same of you!"
Neville found Harry only because he knew exactly where to look for him, as Harry had hidden under his invisibility cloak. The only reason that Neville noticed Harry was, in fact, lying on the stone where they had met nearly a year ago after Cedric's death, was that he heard the soft sobs from his friend. Without saying a word, Neville sat down beside him, carefully stretching out his hands until he found Harry so that he could wrap his arms around him.
He just held onto Harry and let him sob for a long while because he had no idea what to say to make any of this better. To lose Sirius had to have broken Harry's heart and there was nothing that could smooth that hurt at the moment. Neville could only hope that time would help and Harry would not revert back to a point where he would consider to stop fighting.
Neville had no idea how much time had passed when Harry finally fell silent or when he came out from under the invisibility cloak to turn and bury his face in Neville's chest. None of them cared for the curfew when the sun began to set and Neville hoped none of the other boys in their dormitory would alert the teachers to their absence.
"I wish I could have killed Lestrange," Harry muttered finally.
"You and me both," Neville replied. He had aimed for her because he would have loved to get revenge for his parents, but now he also regretted that he had not managed to even injure her because maybe that could have saved Sirius.
"And Dumbledore is … Nothing of this would have happened if he wouldn't keep so many secrets! If I had known the truth all along, or if we could have found any adult inside this damn castle to listen to us and help us…"
"Which truth?" Neville asked when Harry trailed off.
"It's infuriating. Did … did anyone ever tell you why your parents were attacked?"
Neville frowned because he had no idea how to follow Harry's change of topic. "They were Aurors and very active in fighting him."
"And they were in hiding, as was my family at the time. Did you never wonder why?"
"Grandma told me they had been warned about a pending attack, but she didn't know any more details herself."
Harry sat up and looked at him with a stony face. "Dumbledore told me yesterday … that there is a prophecy. And it's … it could have been either of us because it spoke of a child born at the end of the seventh month. That's why both of our parents were in hiding. And why both of our families were attacked."
"What?" Neville sat up himself, looking at his friend flabbergasted.
"Voldemort chose me. Marked me." Harry touched the scar on his forehead. "That's the reason for his obsession with me. He thinks I'm the only one who can defeat him. And Dumbledore thinks the same thing. But instead of preparing me for it, he just keeps all of these secrets and I hate him for it!"
"How long has Dumbledore known about the prophecy?"
"Since it was spoken. He was the one who warned our parents."
"That was the orb we found in the hall of prophecies."
Harry nodded. "Voldemort wanted to get it because he only knows part of it. That's why he had to lure me there because only the two of us could take it out of the shelf."
"Did Dumbledore tell you the prophecy?"
Harry nodded again and recited the words without being prompted.
"We need to review those plans we made last year," Neville said darkly. They had been derailed from following through with them with all that had happened with Umbridge and the DA, even so, it had helped with the later.
"Yes." Harry nodded. "And … Those paselmagic books you talked about would be a good idea."
Neville could not hold back the relieved sigh about Harry's determination.
"Last year I was … I still don't know how I can successfully fight against him," Harry said, obviously understanding quite well what had Neville so relieved. "But I'll do my damnest to get revenge for Sirius. And Cedric and my parents. I won't let him just kill me."
Neville grinned. "I don't think that's a bad reason to fight."
Harry shrugged. "You would be the only one in that. Dumbledore basically told me it was my duty, bestowed upon me by fate. And Hermione insists that we need to stand up and fight for the whole of this country. I really don't know why I should fight for anyone here!"
Neville smiled hesitantly. "I hope you would at least fight for me. I'll fight for you."
Harry averted his eyes, but Neville could see him blush. "Maybe. But if it were only the two of us, we could still leave and let all of them rot. I really don't care any more."
Harry shrugged. "Ron told me this morning it was unmanly to cry."
"He is an insensitive prick, but we knew that already," Neville muttered.
"I sent a stinging hex his way and I was tempted to make it strong enough to make him cry, but I figured I wouldn't get away with that much," Harry confessed. "I just … I don't know why I can't stop hoping for him to become a real friend who is not only there when he can gain something from it."
Neville knew exactly why Harry could not stop to hope for this, but he kept his mouth shut about it. There was no reason at all to discuss Harry's situation before Hogwarts.
Harry slumped down a little bit. "I really miss Sirius. I have barely seen him in the last two years … Hermione is right, I barely knew him at all, but he was still my godfather. The only real family I had left because the Dursleys don't count at all."
Neville sighed and drew Harry back against him, hugging him tightly. "There is nothing rational about love or grief. You are entitled to feel whatever you are feeling about his loss. Don't let Hermione or Ron or someone else tell you otherwise."
Harry took a shuddering breath. "Maybe none of this would have happened if Dumbledore would have just done what he promised had helped clear Sirius' name. He has all those fancy titles, he should have used them!"
Neville hummed. "Dumbledore would need to confess to his own failings at that time if he brought up that Sirius never had a trail because he was knee-deep in all those proceedings. I don't think he would do anything to damage his own image. And he is so insistent that you go back to the muggles every year, I don't think he would have wanted to give you an alternative."
"So, he made a promise he never intended to hold up?"
"He is … trying to shape the world to his own liking, he is only doing it with a lot more subtlety than Voldemort. I never…" Neville frowned. "I never thought him a great man, you know? Even so, my Grandma thinks so and has spent a lot of time praising his great deeds, but I don't see that he has done anything great since defeating Grindelwald. I mean, he is talking about equal rights all the time, but he has done nothing to bring forward any laws for that or even to educate the students in Hogwarts about it."
"I never … you know, I don't know much even about the recent history of the magical world."
"You were kept busy," Neville said. "And you weren't very … curious over such things when you came to Hogwarts. I only came to understand how much you didn't know in second year. And you only started to show any interest in these things during fourth year."
He felt Harry stiffen up in his arms. "One of the first things I learned was to not ask questions and to not show if I was interested in something because it would get taken away from me. And when I came here there was so much … I didn't even know where to start and at the same time I could not get over the behaviour my relatives had trained me into."
"I know," Neville muttered.
It had taken him a long time to understand that because he had had no scope for the things Harry had lived through. Domestic abuse and child abuse were things that were never talked about in magical society, but Neville had learned to understand that it existed everywhere around them, even so, most people were denying that harshly and insisting it was only a problem of the muggles. To understand that his own great-uncle’s actions were a kind of abuse had helped him a lot in understanding that none of it had been his fault.
"I think sometime in fourth year I just stopped caring what anyone was thinking about me and that's the reason why I started to ask questions," Harry muttered. "Though, it's still hart."
"But it's gotten easier, right?" Neville asked and after a nod from Harry he continued, "So it will keep getting easier."
Harry sighed. "I wish I wouldn't need to go back to the Dursleys. Last year was so hard because they just wouldn't accept any explanation when I woke up screaming from a nightmare. I… It will be the same this year."
Neville frowned. "I never noticed you having nightmares!"
"I do know how to put a silencing charm on my bed!" Harry replied. "I … You would be the only one in the dorm who wouldn't complain about it. I only forgot it a couple of times during the year and I was really glad that I had forgotten it in the night when Mr. Weasley was attacked!"
"You never said anything either," Neville muttered. "I would have liked to help."
Harry shrugged. "What could you have done? I think you already did all that you could. It helped a lot that I could speak with you whenever I needed to speak about Cedric or anything else. I didn't …"
"Maybe it could have helped more to speak about the nightmares," Neville suggested. "Tell me about them in the future, okay?"
"I'll try," Harry muttered.
"I can't believe he is sending you back again!"
Harry shrugged. "Only two more summers. I'll survive."
"Last year you were attacked by Dementors, how can he think you are safe there? Shouldn't that blood ward have kept them away, too?"
"Dudley and I weren't at the house," Harry reminded. "I guess I'll try to stay inside, just to be sure."
Neville snorted. "Right, that will help so much with your overall situation."
"Could you borrow me some of those books you brought with you and that we never got a chance to look into? I could try to catch up on the theory a little bit if I'll have so much time I can use it to read."
"Of course," Neville muttered. "And I expect you to write to me. I don't give a fuck what Dumbledore has to say about you receiving letters."
He had not cared about that the year before and it had turned out that he had been the only one. Harry had not often answered, but the few times Neville had gotten an answer from his friend his desperation had been very clear in every single word. Neville could not understand why Hermione and Ron let Dumbledore dictate the terms of their friendship with Harry instead of supporting their friend.
"We really have to stop meeting like this!"
Neville laughed about Harry's words and sat down beside him on their rock on the shore of the Black Lake.
"At least this time I'm not crying."
"I wouldn't care about that," Neville said softly. "But I don't see why you would cry over Dumbledore's death. It's a hard loss in the fight against Voldemort, sure, but personally, no loss at all, if you asked me."
Harry snorted. "Don't let anyone else hear that. I'm a little bit … perturbed that they gave him a burial here on the school ground, but then no one else seems to be irritated by all of his manipulations."
"Most don't even see it," Neville reminded. "Will you tell me what you were doing that night?"
Harry bit his lip and took a long time, before he answered, "There are … a couple of things I need to find before I can defeat Voldemort. We went to one of them, but we didn't find it. I'll have to search for them on my own now. If Dumbledore had any idea where I could find them, he didn't share it with me."
"Of course not," Neville muttered darkly. "I want to come with you."
Harry shook his head. "I'm going alone."
"This is dangerous!" Harry interrupted him. "And I think I need someone here at school I can trust to prepare the other students. Because whatever will come next is ugly and dark and … They already dared to attack Hogwarts once. They'll come back. Someone needs to be here to stand up against them and I don't think I'll be able to come back any time soon."
Neville closed his eyes and took a deep, steadying breath. They both knew that war was looming on the horizon and that it would just come faster now that Dumbledore was dead. Neville may have not trusted him at all, but he had least been good at holding Voldemort and his Death Eaters partly at bay. Harry was right, they would not hold back anymore and the only once willing to stand up against them seemed to be school children.
"I don't like this," Neville said darkly. "Don't go alone. Take Ron and Hermione with you, please!"
"No, you don't get to disagree with this! - Do you remember what you said two years ago? They are there for the action, and whatever you need to do, you will see a lot of action, don't you think?"
Harry snorted. "Maybe."
"And I don't think Hermione will be at all amendable with letting you go alone. I bet she already suspects what you are planning and is making plans on her own. In-depth plans with triple back-up plans."
Harry laughed and Neville thought it was a really nice change for them to not sit here while Harry was drowning in grief. The last year had been a steady up and down for Harry's mood and Neville thought it would still take a lot of time for him to get over losing Sirius, but it had gotten possible for him to at least forget it for a couple of hours at times.
"You are right, Hermione will be prepared. - I'll go back to the Dursleys until my birthday and then they'll come and get met. I'm not sure what I'll do after that, but I'll need time to catch up what's happened here in the interim. Bill and Fleur will marry later in the summer, did you know? I think I'll stay with the Weasley at least till then."
"Maybe you should ask Ginny if she wants to come with you, too," Neville suggested quietly.
He could not say that he was happy about that development, mostly because he didn't trust Ginny with Harry, but Harry had suddenly been so adamant about pursuing a relationship with her. And he had seemed happy for the most part, so Neville had not questioned it. It had cut down on the time they had spent together previously, mostly learning and training to fight without their wands as they had planned, and it had taken Neville months to understand why it hurt so much to have the time he spent alone with Harry cut down.
"Merlin, no!" Harry shook his head energetically.
Neville frowned. "She is your girlfriend, though. I know she is not of age and that could be-"
"I ended that during the funeral," Harry interrupted him. "And I … It's odd, but I don't even remember why I was dating her anymore! She is kind of annoying, don't you think?"
Neville took a deep breath. "When … did that change? Last we spoke you could barely think about anything else but her!"
"Really?" Harry asked confused. "I don't know. Sometime after … that night, I guess."
Neville eyed him concerned. "Madam Pomfrey gave all of us a flushing drought before she started to heal us. It's standard procedure so nothing can interact with any potions she is giving us."
Harry looked at him irritated. "And?"
"Romilda Vane tried to give you a love potion, do you remember?"
Harry screwed up the face. "How could I forget that? It's disgusting that most of the other students thought it a prank."
"That's because it's only a crime if a pureblood is targeted and there are a lot of stories and fairytales romanticizing it," Neville said.
"Why are you bringing this up?"
"Because it came very abrupt that you wanted to date Ginny. And you were very narrow-minded about it. And now you suddenly say that you can't remember why you were in a relationship with her after you were given a flushing drought."
Harry blinked dumbfounded. "You think she gave me a love potion?"
"She as been obsessed with you since she came to Hogwarts," Neville said. "And she was … not very happy when you were dating Cho last year."
Harry frowned. "She was dating several boys before me."
"And constantly playing that up as soon as you were in the same room with her!"
Harry turned his head and stared out over the lake. Neville watched him from the side and grew steadily more concerned while he saw his friend slowly pale.
"It is suspicious," Harry muttered. "How can I … go to the Burrow knowing this?"
"I can send you flushing draughts and you can take a dose every evening. Set some kind of reminder, so you won't forget it," Neville suggested. "Keep them on you person just in case you need to leave suddenly if something happens."
"How could she do this? How can anyone do this?" Harry shook his head and he sounded so desperate. "Did you know … Voldemort's real name is Tom Riddle and his mother used a love potion on his muggle father. That is the kind of story children should be told to teach them not to do such fucked up shit!" He shuddered. "I can't believe … I feel … so violated."
"I'm sorry I didn't see it," Neville muttered. "I wasn't even suspecting foul play."
Harry shook his head. "Not your fault. I really should have been more cautious after Vane's pralines."
"You shouldn't have to be," Neville said darkly. "Especially with a friend of yours."
Harry snorted. "Ginny wasn't really my friend before she became my girlfriend, though. I mean, mostly I took only notice of her because she is Ron' little sister and I have spent a part of each summer with their family. She was just … there all the time. And most of the time I found her kind of annoying, because … everyone who buys in this whole boy-who-lived crap is annoying."
"As I said, she was obsessed with you from the very first day here in school. - Be careful around her. Not just during the summer, but also when all of this is said and done. If she did this once she will not stop from doing it a second time."
Harry turned his head to look at him. "You weren't very happy about this relationship from the start."
Neville shrugged silently. He really did not want to discuss with Harry the reason for that. Especially at this moment when they had no idea when they would see each other again.
"I thought you were jealous of me. You went to the Yule ball with her."
Neville snorted. "No. I was a little bit enamoured with her at the time, but that was nothing serious. I … I don't have a lot of interest in girls."
"Oh." Harry stared out over the water without saying anything else for a long time. When he finally spoke up again, it was to change the topic. "You should bring up the DA again next year. Prepare the students to fight. I'm pretty sure it will end here. He is as obsessed with Hogwarts as he is with me and he'll want to take over the school."
"I still would like to come with you," Neville replied.
Harry shook his head. "Who else is there in our year who could prepare the other students? And … I would appreciate knowing that you are halfway safe. Because Ron, Hermione and I won't be safe at all, you know?"
"No one will be safe now," Neville muttered.
"You'll be safer inside of Hogwarts than anywhere else," Harry insisted. "When I come back eventually, I'll want to be sure that you are waiting here for me. I want to be able to trust that the school is prepared. There is no one else I would trust with that, Neville."
"And can I be sure, that you are coming back?"
"I told you last year, I'm not prepared to let this bastard kill me. I promise you I'll do anything I can to get out of this alive."
Never before in his life had Neville been as angry as in this moment, when he grabbed Harry and dragged him into a secret passage out of the way of the other students and the few adults from the Order of the Phoenix who had come to their aid in the fight against Voldemort. An hour had passed, maybe, since Voldemort had fallen at Harry's hand and the rest of the fight had finally died down, giving them a chance to rest and to search for the injured.
"You fucking bastard!" Neville growled as he drew Harry in a tight hug. "You promised me you wouldn't let him kill you!" He still hurt deep in his chest from these minutes, when he had thought Harry was dead and when he had had to live with the fact that had not stopped his friend from walking to his death.
"I'm still alive," Harry muttered, but he returned Neville's hug without hesitation.
"After you stood in front of me and told me you would go into the damn forest to sacrifice yourself and that I needed to kill the damn snake! I thought you were dead! We all thought you were dead!"
"I'm sorry. I had no other choice. He needed … If I had thought there was another way to defeat him, I would have chosen that. But … Remember when we spoke about the prophecy? When I said he marked me?"
Neville nodded, burying his face in Harry's hair.
"We were connected through my scar. It … would have kept him tethered to this world."
"How did you learn this?" Neville hated how much his voice shook.
"Snape gave me a memory of a discussion he had with Dumbledore while he was dying." Harry swallowed audibly. "It was all planned from both of them, that Snape killed him, I mean. And Dumbledore instructed Snape to give me this memory in the last possible moment."
Harry laughed slightly. "I don't remember that you were cursing so much when we last saw each other."
"I hadn't lived through a year in Hogwarts under the rule of Death Eaters yet", Neville muttered. "And I hadn't had to let you walk off to your death yet. You really … I would have never forgiven you if you had really died."
Harry sighed deeply. "I … actually was dead for a while there. It's only because of the kind of ritual Voldemort chose three years ago that I was able to come back as long as he was still alive. I had a choice if I wanted to come back or not. And I really was not prepared to break my promise to you from last year."
Suddenly, Harry's fist beat softly against his back. "And you have to talk! You let Voldemort set you on fire! I nearly lost my cover when I saw that, despite knowing that you hopefully wore the clothes protected against it!"
"I've worn the protective gear you made me all year long," Neville assured. It had been one of the few things of the parselmagic Harry had been able to master during their sixth year. "And in the end, it was a good thing, because the hat gave me Gryffindor's sword."
"Told you no one would expect a physical assault. I saw you using it throughout the whole battle. You kept up the training without me."
Neville sighed. "Of course I did. I trained the other to use makeshift weapons from nearly everything around us to distract any opponent. For a couple of them, it saved their lives."
"It's really over, isn't it?"
"Yeah." Neville was surprised when Harry suddenly just dropped down and he barely caught him. He lowered him carefully to the floor and sat down himself, without letting go of his friend. "It's okay, everything's alright. It's over now, you'll never have to face this monster again." He would love to be able to promise, that Harry would never have to fight again, too, but the last year had destroyed any delusions he had ever had over such a thing.
Harry shook his head, silently sobbing. "So many have died today! Remus and Tonks are dead. And Fred. The Weasleys are devastated.”
"I know," Neville muttered.
He had seen Fred die and it had been one of the harder moments of the whole fight. But after seeing Harry and thinking he was dead, most of everything else had felt somehow muted. He just had not been able to care much about the people around himself being injured or dying because it had all been too much and at the same time nothing compared to having lost Harry – even for just a couple of minutes.
Harry was leaning heavily against him, quivering and occasionally sobbing. "They had just become parents, Remus and Tonks I mean. I don't understand how both of them could come here and leave their son behind!"
"They were fighting for his future," Neville replied softly.
"I'm his godfather. Tonk's mother survived, I think, so he has still a little bit of family left, but still … one of them should have stayed with him! It's not fair to him!"
"It wouldn't have been fair to him either if we had lost. And I was glad about every single person that came to our aid because … I was not sure if any of it would be enough to get through this battle."
"Your Gran fought like a warrior," Harry said quietly.
"Not the first war she fought in. She was a little bit older than we are now at the end of World War II. It's how she met my Grandfather."
"She is alright. I saw her earlier helping Madam Pomfrey."
"I know, I spoke with her for a moment. She had heard about the being set on fire thing and was not amused."
Harry snorted. "I'm with her on that one."
"I would like for you to come with us, later when we are leaving for the night to get a little bit of rest. I don't think it's a good idea to stay here."
"Are you sure she is okay with it?"
"Yes. - And I don't … Fuck, I just have no idea how I'll be able to let you out of my sight again after this fucking stunt of yours!"
"You need to get a handle on this cursing, you know."
Harry laughed slightly and Neville counted that as a win. "The Weasleys asked Hermione and me to come with them, but … I'm out of your flushing draughts and Ginny gave me another love potion last summer, even though I was really careful with what I was eating and drinking."
"I hate her," Neville said darkly. "It's just gotten worse with her all year. She expects you to marry her."
Harry snorted. "Yeah, in her dreams." He sat up and looked at Neville quizzically. "You weren't jealous of me but of her during sixth year."
Neville felt himself blush and averted his gaze. "Maybe."
"There is no 'maybe' about it!" Harry replied. "I thought a lot about our conversation last year. I thought a lot about you in general. And I'm a little bit ashamed of myself that I didn't get what that was about, until earlier today when I saw you again. I … missed you so much, I can't even put it into words. I regretted more than once that I hadn't let you come with me."
"It was the right choice because there really was no one else prepared to stand up and prepare the other students for today."
"That's so not the matter right now!" Harry said exaggerated.
Neville looked up at him frowning, but before he could say anything, Harry was leaning forward and pressing his lips against Neville’s. For a very tiny moment, Neville was so surprised that he did nothing, but then he cupped Harry's face with his hands, holding him in place while deepening the kiss.
"I wanted you to be with me," Harry muttered against his lips. "I wanted you to stand by my side and I hated myself for being the one who had denied me this."
"I'm here now. And I won't let you send me away again," Neville promised.
"Even if I come with a child now, who's just a couple of days old?"
Neville leaned his forehead against Harry's and smiled. "Even then. What's the name of your godson? And where is he?"
"Teddy Lupin. And he is with his grandmother, as far as I know."
"We'll take care of him together. And we'll rebuild this world for him as well as for us."