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Entry #3

Discussion in 'Q1 2021' started by Xiph0, Mar 14, 2021.

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  1. Xiph0

    Xiph0 Yoda Admin

    Dec 7, 2005
    West Bank
    Standing up
    Competition: Master and Apprentice

    “He isn’t here.”

    Neville, Hannah and the Patel twins stared up at the sallow faced man in the dark robes. He sneered down at them, “So where is he then? Where is Harry Potter?” There was a beat of silence, as they looked at each other, then up at the Death Eater. For some reason, the memory of staring at Ron, Harry and Hermione in the common room in first year flashed through his mind. Neville found his voice, “He isn’t here, and we don’t know where he is.” He turned back to his friends. He tried to keep the fear off of his face as the door closed. He waited a second, and then let out the breath he had been holding. Hannah looked at him, “Aren’t you afraid of them? This year is going to be awful.” She despaired, Susan’s absence all the more prominent to her. Neville reached over and gave her a hug, holding her even as he shook himself with fear. A Gryffindor was brave. That meant he could be ’just told a death eater to fuck off’ terrified, but he couldn’t show it. The Patils looked at him with a bit of awe. And that was how Neville became Hogwarts number one undesirable. He was cursed before he even got off the train.

    Neville winced as professor Sprout pressed a poultice against his belly. The acrid and herbal scent was soothing, but not enough to counteract the pain. At her prompt, he listed all 11 herbs that made up the mixture, keeping his mind off of the pain, “You will be a fantastic Herbologist Neville, if we can keep you alive long enough.” She sighed and he got up from the stool in her office. He moved with practiced ease around the noxious and deadly plants, picking a few of the leaves from three different plants and placing them into clay cups. He waved his wand. His wand, not his father’s. The kettle began hissing instantly, and he poured the water over the leaves, adding a crushed dried dirigible plum to the mug he gave Sprout. Her tea fizzed, and they both drank slowly. “Thank you Neville, exactly how I like it.” She said, for what must have been the hundredth time. Neville saw she was going to talk about what happened on the train, and headed her off.

    “So professor, it's just Hannah and Blaise and I in the NEWT class, how is that going to work?” He sipped his own tea, holding the poultice to his belly. NEWT Herbology was chronically under-attended, especially compared to charms or transfiguration, but this year was particularly bad. Its ranks were usually filled with Hufflepuffs. This was the first year in decades that the Hufflepuffs were outnumbered.

    She recognized his ploy, but allowed him the distraction, “You three will be having regularly scheduled classes. Mister Zabini and Miss Abbot will be having projects to complete, and lots of cramming to do.” She sipped her tea, writing more notes on the missing Hufflepuffs. So many had been surprised when Neville had shown up to their house, and told them to get out. August had been a hell of a month, but he’d gotten to all of the Professor’s kids. What had surprised him was that all of them had listened. None of the muggleborns had come to the castle; he was in awe sometimes with how much they listened to him. Well, listening to her through him.

    He organized her mail into a few piles, asking further questions about the coming year. Their post-feast planning session usually ran several hours into the night, and it was the one night that no prefect bothered with patrols. Between the train and the huge feast, most kids passed out. She had shown him, time and again, how planning could keep him from falling behind in class. No falling behind meant less stress, less stress led to less stuttering.

    He knew she wanted him to ask what he would be doing for the year, but he was in no rush. She saw it as him asserting himself. He saw this, and her other tests, and trying to make him self-important. After a few minutes, when she was halfway done with the tea and he was halfway through the letters, he noticed one rattling. Picking it back up, he heard the unmistakable sound of seeds rattling against each other in the envelope. The return name was in greek, Theo-something. Sadly, owl post rarely had more than a name to go off of, and this was no exception. Why would Greece send something here?

    “Professor, a letter from someone in Greece? With seeds?”

    Sprout smiled, pleased, “That was fast. You are holding in your hands on your NEWT course. Inside is a plant. You are to cultivate it, and find out a use for it. You will have my help, should you ask for it. I will tell you that no other professor knows what it is or how to take care of it, aside from…” her face grew pained as she trailed off. Neville felt almost blinding rage boil up inside him. Only Snape knew enough Herbology to be theoretically helpful of all the professors.

    Neville had always been afraid of Snape. Everyone who was in school four years ago knew that, and was left of his class knew what Snape looked like in his grandmother’s hat. But now Neville was more afraid of what he would try to do to the headmaster. He had no illusions about winning in a fight ,but ever since the funeral of Dumbeldore, winning wasn’t important. For Snape, Neville just wanted to see him bleeding on the ground, alone and afraid.

    In the disorganized messy greenhouse that was Neveille’s mind was a yawning pit. No plants grew in it, not even devil’s snare could exist within the abyss. His fear of Snape had never diminished. It was that fear that pulled Neville’s anger back, swallowing it into the dark abyss. “Got it Professor. I’ll figure something out.”

    “Neville, this will also be the basis of your mastery thesis. You were so ahead of the rest of the class last year. I could give you the NEWT exam today and you would fly through it. So instead, I'm offering you this. This will be the first year of your apprenticeship. But in exchange, you have to stay alive. Stay out of trouble and don’t get yourself disappeared. I know you can do it Neville. You made it through five years of a difficult potions teacher and you kept your head through it. Now do it again.”

    Neville was surprised at the rapid shift of her tone, from proud to fearful, but his escapade on the train, and the swift vengeance, certainly gave her plenty of evidence. “I’ll try professor.” She nodded, and ushered him to bed.

    Fear gnawed at Neville at breakfast the next morning as class schedules were distributed. Neville couldn’t focus on the new Dark Arts class in the schedule, even though everyone was talking about it. He was afraid of what the ramifications would be for his stunt, beyond the curse. His thoughts raced in circles like pixies high on silver-leaf. He couldn’t even linger on the Carrows, the murderers just a small blip before the towering terror that was Snape. His eyes kept finding the greasy haired, hooked nose man, eating breakfast with mechanical precision and disinterest in the conversation around him.

    “Come on Neville. We’ll be late.” Hannah’s voice snapped him out of his thoughts like a popped bubotuber.

    The sallow faced Carrow stared down at the students with disgust; barely half of the original 40 students looked back at him. Neville took no notice of the diminished numbers, instead focusing on the man from the train, his own eyes focused on the seventh year Gryffindor.

    “Today we are covering your lack of education in the Dark Arts. Those who misbehave will be practice for those who succeed. Today we will be starting with the skin sloughing curse. Mister Longbottom, come here.” Neville swallowed, then stood. He imagined he was walking up in Harry’s place. How many times had Umbridge made him walk to the front to reprimand him? How many times had Lockhart done the same to embarrass him? And Snape…. Neville shook his head, and focused on the walk. He walked tall, shoulders back like his Grandmother demanded. Inside he was already resigned to being punished for his cheek. Perhaps he would lose his cheek? Literally? Dark humor for a dark year.
    “You showed disrespect to me on the train.” There was no mania or glee in the man’s voice, like he heard from Bellatrix or Lucius. He seemed bored and disappointed as he addressed the class, “The movement is a sinuous flick from elbow through the wrist. The intent is to channel envy, and the incantation is Aderm.” He instructed, and as he incanted he performed the action. Neville felt an intense pain in his right hand, and his wand, and the skin holding it slid to the ground, severed cleanly like a glove of flesh had been taken off. Underneath the muscles and tendons glistened. The blood vessels pulsed. He hissed in agony, trying to keep from screaming. The man looked at Neville like a particularly dirty insect.

    “You have not focused overmuch on emotional intents. This is what gives power to Dark Arts. You must feel and desire it to bring about the effect. Where I to do it again, without intent, Aderm.” A wave and Neville felt like his face itch and sting like a sunburn, and saw a paper-thin layer of skin fall from his face to the floor.

    “Now Mister Longbottom, let’s see you try. You, Mister Zabini.” Blaise stood up, fear and confusion evident on his face. “You’re the prettiest boy here. Let's see if we can use that to teach Mister Longbottom something about envy.” Where Neville had marched up without protest, and was even now managing the pain in his hand as he picked up the wand in his left hand, Blaise was not so poised. “I don’t want to. I’m on your side.” Carrow shrugged. “I’m here to teach. You have a face other boys would envy. Therefore, get up there.” There was no anger, just more dispassionate and disinterested disappointment.

    Neville shook his head. There was no way he was going to use the dark arts, especially not on Blaise, the only decent Slytherin in the lot.

    “No.” Neville said. The teacher looked at him confused.

    “No what?” He asked rhetorically. Neville realized that he was already in for it. “No.” He repeated. If he was going to get in trouble, not properly addressing the professor was the least of his problems.

    “It’s no Professor Carrow. And for your cheek, Mister Zabini, you do it to him. And if you don’t I’ll get Mister Crabbe to practice on you both.” Blaise’s eyes widened, and he raised his wand. The flick was jerky, not smooth, and Neville choked down a scream as his face felt like it was splashed with hot oil. Then Carrow sent up Crabbe and Goyle, and Neville did scream.

    Pomfrey kept him for three days to regrow the skin, and Parvati kept him abreast of the rumors about him as well as the homework, and one special book. Apparently Neville the Skinless was an avatar of justice against the Carrows. Neville was nonplussed with the rumors, but appreciated the homework. It said something about this year that the first room he learned something in was the hospital wing. He had also gotten very good at casting accio just strong enough to turn a single page left handed. The library book Parvati had delivered, Magical Surface Plants of the Mediterranean was fascinating, and reading it had dominated his stay. He of course, had committed Magical Mediterranean Water Plants and Their Properties to heart since his fourth year. While none of the seeds matched the ones in Sprout’s office, the commonalities of soil and weather throughout had at least given him a starting point. Pomfrey tutted at his reading, but focused instead on keeping visitors out. When she released him, he fled to the greenhouses, where Sprout was waiting for him. She said nothing, merely handed him dragonhide gloves and shears, and pointed at the venomous tentacula. The work was just hard enough to put him in a relaxed but focused state that only Herbology could give him.

    Some hours later the tenatculas had been trimmed, and Sprout was sitting at her desk, sipping her tea while a second cup waited for him. Bright yellow daffodils bloomed along the mug, and Neville smiled. It was the mug Hermione had gotten him after the second task for helping Harry.

    “That was a brave thing you did Neville.” Sprout commented, looking up from the Herbology summer homework. Neville would normally have done a preliminary grading for her, but his recent face melting experience had left him indisposed. He looked down, embarrassed. “Someone had to say no. I won’t do dark magic.” He spoke with the backbone that his posture worked so hard to hide. Sprout smiled at her protégé, “Nevertheless, you were the one. I’ve already complained to the headmaster, he said he’d look into it.” Which, knowing Snape meant anything he wanted it to mean. Neville shrugged, expecting nothing. But he would do it again regardless. “If you want Neville.” She set down her quill and looked at him. She waited until he looked up at her. “I could ensure you get out. I didn’t understand how bad it was going to be, but I do know it's going to get worse this year. If you leave now, well, you wouldn’t be the first.” They shared a look, thinking of the missing muggleborns. “ I know many Herbology professors who would take you as a transfer. Casa de Magia would be thrilled to have you, and of course, the Temple of Hecate would take you on name alone.” Neville was shaking his head as she finished, and she sighed, “No professor, if I was like Harry and doing something to fix things, I’d leave. But I won’t run away. Hogwarts and Britain are my home. My parents did more than die to make this place for me. I’m not leaving.” She smiled at his determination, even as she made a mental note to write to Theodora. Perhaps a written invitation for the whole Longbottom family would be more persuasive. They were Grecian celebrities, after what Algie did.

    A few hours later, Neville knocked, and then entered the room, “You wanted to see my professor?” He asked hesitantly, “Yes Mister Longbottom, do come in” Mcgonnagal replied with a rich brogue. He entered the Gryffindor head of house’ office with trepidation. The room was full of pictures of waving students, old trophies from bygone years, and a large collection of stuffed lions atop the bookcase. “I heard what happened in the Defence- the Dark Arts classroom.” She corrected herself with obvious distaste. Neville sat in the wooden chair opposite her large desk, the space between them wide. He sat with a straight back and proper posture, as Grandmother demanded, “Yes Professor.” He replied, McGonanagal frowned.

    “What happened was not appropriate. I’ve mentioned the unacceptability of it to the headmaster. This will be fixed.” Her accent thickened with her anger, and he withdrew deeper into the chair, saying nothing. After a moment, he nodded. She frowned further. “I’m here if you need anything Neville.” Her voice was stilted, and came out forced ,especially for his name. Neville nodded again, “Yes professor.”

    This time she waited. “Is there anything else professor?” He asked, when the silence stretched too deeply into awkwardness.

    She sighed and shook her head. He left quickly, a short “Goodbye professor” on his way out the door

    It was two weeks later that Neville finally felt confident in his research to plant the seeds. He had hedged his bets, planting each of the four seeds in slightly different beds in greenhouse six. Sprout still hadn’t come up with a plan for the greenhouse, and had given it to Neville for his project. He had followed the simple rule of two by two. One bed to mimic the islands, salty soil with poor drainage. One to mimic the hills, high drainage and no salt, and two to account for the odd places with too much salt in the hills or too little salt in the lowlands. He felt pretty confident in the hills focused one. The seeds had looked closets to Pegasus bushes, and leaves that flew on their own would certainly be a useful base to start a project. “Meteolojinx” He cast, setting up a typical grecian pattern of plenty of rain and heat, and set the salty soils to resalt themselves weekly. He left Magical Surface Plants of the Mediterranean in the corner, ready to be used when they started to break through the soil. He held off on more complicated adjustments, without knowing what the plant was, he didn’t want to kill it.

    A few weeks later, Neville found Mandy in tears. The second year Gryffindor was backed tightly into a corner, her robes glittering from slime in the torchlight. The older ravenclaw girl with her wand pointed at Mandy, along with a pile of slugs and slime on the floor made it clear what happened. Neville sighed and squared himself up. Without the threat of the Twins or Harry’s fame, too many gryffindors were getting picked on.

    “Evangeline. I’ve warned you about bullying before.” He said, stepping up the stairs and drawing his wand. He immediately launched expelliarmus and followed by impedimenta, and the Ravenclaw’s wand flew away and she tripped over air, landing face first in the slugpile. Neville was no Fred or George, but five years was enough time with them to learn a thing or two about comeuppance. Mandy ran behind him, holding fast to his robe.

    “Mister Longbottom. Miss Partridge. Miss Pullerman. Bullying is not tolerated at Hogwarts. Detention for all of you.” His voice drifted from the shadows, and the disillusionment charm disappeared. Neville realized he had been there the whole time. “But professor Carrow.” Here Neville used the appropriate address. He wasn’t speaking for himself, but for Mandy. “Evangeline was bullying Mandy. I stopped her. You were there the whole time, you must have seen that.” Neville pleaded. “I agree Mister Longbottom. I saw bullying, and I see three students. Simple enough.” Mandy managed to calm herself down enough to respond, “But professor, I didn’t do anything, she just yelled at me and called me names and then cursed me. Being bullied can’t be bullying!” Nevielle was impressed at her gumption, but the sallow man’s expression didn’t change. “That may be true Miss Partridge. I also don’t care. Detention starts at seven o’clock tonight.” He said coldly as he walked away. Mandy burst into tears again, and Evangeline pushed herself up, picking up her wand and scuttling off.

    They were not the only students at seven; a small group of ten students stood outside. Neville recognized an even mix of half bullies and half regularly bullied. The two groups stared at each other with mistrust, and a few wands were held in nervous fingers, but threats of worse detention were hanging over everyone’s head.

    “Form a line.” Professor Carrow, the woman, shouted out. There was some pushing and shoving and the professor blasted Evangeline with a flipendo into the wall. “Line. Now. Quickly.” She shouted again. The group quickly formed a line. Neville grabbed the dazed Ravenclaw and held her in front of him to keep her upright. Being a bully was bad, but in front of the Carrows, they all were victims equally.

    “You. In.” She shouted at the first student in line. They waited in silence for a few minutes, then began whispering. After ten minutes, Hector stumbled out of the room, wheezing in pain. Everyone was silent, which allowed them to hear the call from inside. “Next!” Ernie looked back at the line, and then stepped forward while Hector slowly walked back to his dorm. The door closed ominously. Each student came out looking worse than the next. Evangeline’s look of terror as she stepped through stayed with Neville for the scant three minutes before she tumbled out, crying worse than Mandy had. Neville looked behind him at Mandy. She looked so scared and small. “Next!” The shout startled him, and he tried to smile at her. He wasn’t sure how effectively it came across.

    Inside were the two Carrows. “You bullied a student. Don’t do it again. If you do it again, you will be punished.” Professor Carrow recited, not seeming to believe or care about his own words. “To ensure that you understand this, you will be punished now. You may attempt to defend yourself, but that will prolong the punishment.” Both Carrows drew their wands and advanced. Neville drew his own, and fought back. He lasted about a minute before he was disarmed, and then the bludgeoning and piercing charms hit. When his head cracked against the stone floor, a strange though bubbled through. ‘I guess Snape really did tell them to stop hexing off skin.’ He was smart enough not to laugh at the absurdity, but they must have seen a smile, for the bludgeoners started coming in pairs from opposite sides, rattling his head like an egg in a jar, and he was afraid his skull would split. Then, just as he was about to lose consciousness, the shaking stopped. He sank to his knees, and a stinging curse hit his chest. “Get up. Get out.” He hurried, stumbling out. Mandy looked at him, awe in her eyes. Awe swiftly turned to terror. “Next!” He took a knee just outside the door, eyes level with hers, “I’ll wait for you here.” He sat and focused on his breathing. His watch told him that he’d been in for a half an hour, the longest of anyone by far. He rubbed dittany on his face, even as the other students peppered him with questions, “It's just beatings. But they don’t make you bleed.” Two minutes later, Mandy herself stumbled out, she was holding back tears and holding her stomach. He stood up, the bruises already stiffening his body, and held out a hand for her. The two of them hobbled up the stairs to Gryffindor tower together.

    The common room was not empty. Mandy’s roommates were there, and they swarmed her when she came in. “Dittany.” Neville called out to them, and Sabrina nodded. They ushered her upstairs, while Neville looked at Seamus. “You look like me nan just caught you with her wallet and porn.” He moved and helped support Neville up the stairs. “Let's get you up to bed. I’ve got some dittany. I figure we are going to run out fast at this rate.” Neville leaned on the Irishman, “Not if greenhouse six has anything to do with it.”

    The next morning at breakfast, Hannah came up to him, “The rumor is that you beat the Carrows with your face.” Neville looked at her confused, and she pointed to his nose, producing a compact. The bruising was extensive. “No, I just tolerated their bullshit more than anyone else.” Hannah patted his unbruised hand, and headed back to her nearly empty table.

    It was nearly December and an early snowstorm had blanketed Hogwarts in what should have been a wonderful snow day. Neville had spent the early evening with the Carrows, focusing on his dodging and banisher. And getting the shit beaten out of him. As was his usual custom, Neville inspected the trees that had grown surprisingly quickly in greenhouse six. The dittany crop that dominated the rest of the greenhouse was overgrowing in the magical environment, and was being trimmed back weekly. Fortunately for the students who caught the Carrows ire for some slight or another, the black market price for dittany in Hogwarts had crashed. Thanks to Neville’s efforts, a vial of dittany essence was roughly a few knuts, mostly for the vial. He had also developed a bad habit of dropping change at the top of the stairs, losing much of the “profits” that he and the Patel twins had collected.

    But the trees were just so fast. Their leaves were short, far too small for the growth that was there. But that was yet another mystery to the plant. The leaves were thick and waxy, the bark smooth and with thin branches. That eliminated most of the options within Magical Surface Plants of the Mediterranean, leaving Neville flipping between two pages: Gorgon Sap and Sighing Trees. Neither the sound of snakes, nor sighs had happened, and Neville was nervous. If he was understanding the plant’s signals right, it should start to blossom tonight. The growth curve didn’t fit either of those plants, but he was sure that none of the others fit any closer. Sprout had offered to come to help, but he had declined. This was going to be his project. And he wanted something of his own, away from the punishments of the Carrows.

    The pink bud rustled, and then slowly began unfolding. Neither hiss nor sigh escaped, it was silent as a fist-sized flower bloomed. Neville stared in awe. He looked closely at the flower’s shape and petal structure, and counted the pistils. “It’s a lotus.” He laughed, and placed the book on a stool. He sprinted back to his room, ignoring McGonnagal yelling at him to slow down. Grabbing an old book from its prominent place on his shelf, he raced back, a huge smile on his face. He flipped through the pages quickly, he knew exactly where to look in Plants of Mythology. He compared the description to the plant in front of him. How in Merlin’s name had Sprout managed to get Lotus Trees? He started salting the soil of the other trees, adding low drainage charms and increasing the humidity. The dittany wouldn’t care significantly. He cupped one of the flowers in his hand, feeling the plant. The petals were delicate, slightly swollen. The color of the leaves wasn’t light enough for being on an island. “Meteolojinx recanto.” He waved his wand, undoing some of the rain charms. That would allow more sunlight and less soaking. Adding griffin dung fertilizer completed the process. Neville sat down to admire his work.

    Sprout tapped him on the shoulder, “Neville. Come with me.” He looked up at her, and then she bodily dragged him from the greenhouse as fast as she could. Dawn was breaking and he blinked at the sunlight. “How long were you in there Neville?” “Must have been about 30 hours or so?” He replied calmly “Why professor, something wrong?” But even as he said it, confusion crept into his voice. Sprout said nothing, smiling encouragingly. “ but I should have finished with all the charms in an hour. It shouldn’t have taken nearly that long. The Lotus tree, it messes with time? No. Perception of time right?” “Both actually.” She corrected him. “The flowers cause the mind to fill in the gaps that the trees create with time dilation. Hence why Odysseus burned the island to the ground, but took the seeds with him. Time magic is too dangerous to leave unattended.” Neville looked back at the greenhouse. He thought back to Mandy, Ernie, and the Carrows, and had a very un-Neville idea.

    He wrote up a brief thesis idea over the next month about using the tree to speed up growth of barbelute trees, notoriously slow growing monstrosities. But Neville was working on a second thesis. This one without any supervision, and with plans scattered across a dozen different notebooks and pages, completely out of order and without any individual page being incriminating. But all together, the plan to use the plants perfume and whichever part of the tree sped up time was a dangerous one indeed.

    “I’m going to be late to dinner.” Neville smiled at Hannah. Blaise rolled his eyes and focused on counting water drops for his archery cactus. Hannah blushed as Neville’s hand brushed her hair. She too was counting water drops, and wasn’t nearly as focused as Blaise. Neville grabbed her hand before she added the 83rd, and she blushed even harder. Neville, of course, had watered his a long time ago using a dasher. “It’s a project Sprout has me working on.” Neville stammered out the lie, and while Hannah seemed focused on his hand holding hers, Blaise looked up in noticeable confusion. Neville however, was too distracted by Hannah’s hand in his to notice much at all.

    Blaise showed up three weeks later as Neville left the greenhouse close to midnight. “Mind if I take a look?” He asked, innocent as anything. Nevilled was startled, and he stammered and stuttered. His mind seized up like an old clock, “um, ah, uh uhm, no?” Blaise smiled and strode right past him into the greenhouse. “I’m curious what little extra-curricular project Potter has you doing.” Neville rushed in half in fear, and half in excitement. He’d so far only tested it on himself and plants. Blaise was standing right next to a tree, almost draped in the leaves, his hand touching the lotus flower. He could see Blaise’s mouth buzz some question, and he walked closer, “Sorry, I didn’t hear you.” He looked down as he walked from the bluegrass to the greengrass, while Blaise stood solidly on yellowgrass. Huegrass changed color as it grew older, and one day soon he might get to see ultraviolet grass at this rate. He had always wanted to see some. “I asked, so what’s the plan with the tree? The flowers smell nice, but I don’t recognize it.” Neville shook his head, “First off, this is a project for Sprout. The tree changes colors of other plants.” He pointed to the concentric rings of colors around the tree, hoping the very well practiced partial truth would pass through the slytherin’s muster. “I’m working on my mastery thesis.” He said with pride, “Sprout has me doing this to become an Herbology master a year early. Though keep it quiet, it’s a secret.” Blaise sniffed disdainfully, “With color changing plants? You need to start a year early, because it’ll take a decade for you to finish.” The jape was harsh, but Neville knew Blaise. Cutting for the fun of it, but without the malice of Malfoy, “Well, it's really late. We should go.” Neville commented, pulling Blaise from the greenhouses, the flowers magic making their three hour conversation seem perfectly reasonable. “See you tomorrow!” Neville called out as he climbed the stairs to the tower and Blaise descended to the dungeons. Neville sweated every step, wondering how much Blaise would figure out.

    For two weeks he worried and wondered as he tended the trees. Who would Blaise tell? Who would figure it out. Blaise professed to be on “the Carrows side” but it seemed he was always on everyone’s side. He reminded Neville of Lavender. Friendly with everyone, but not willing to step on toes.

    No one came in the middle of the night to interrogate him. He used the time to isolate the source of the temporal distortion, the leaves. The dark color was them trapping light inside a distorted time field to get the most energy from each mote of light. Like the Huegrass, but instead of taking longer, it just made time go faster.

    “The flowers don’t make sense.” Sprout looked up from her mandrake-nightshade hybrid. Neville’s statement had come as a non-sequitur. She waited, but he seemed to be lost in thought.

    “What do you mean?” She prompted. He always performed well when given the opportunity to explain things, he just needed time to organize his thoughts.

    Several more minutes passed, before Neville responded, “The leaves distort time. Fine. That actually fits with some of the Minoan and Atlantean stuff going on in the area. But soporific flowers don’t fit. They are pollinated by wind, not bees or birds, so why spend the energy to produce it? With the time dilation it's not like a mandragora that depends on human remains. And most of their energy would be gone by the time a human died.” She nodded, cutting back a few wilting leaves. He paced for several more minutes. “So if the plant didn’t come up with it for its own survival, then it must have been added. It couldn’t have been Odysseus, the flowers already had the effect. One of the Atlanteans? Olympians?” Sprout put her shears down and looked intensely at him. He looked back, hopeful for an answer. She tilted her head to the sky, “We don’t know.” And then picked up her shears and began to move on to the Mimbulus Mimbletonia. “They are ridiculously hard to grow, much harder than should be expected, even for a mythical plant. So we just don’t know enough to even prove the hypothesis that it was added. You are one of the few who have grown one. You know more that almost every Herbologist in the world about the Lotus Trees.” That he was the youngest to ever grow one was also impressive, but further ego stroking would only embarrass him and shut him down. “Huh.” Neville said ineloquently, sitting down to process that he had somehow vaulted into the upper echelon of the Herbology world. “Do you think I could talk to one of them? I mean, I could talk to you, but I already have an inner professor Sprout voice telling me when I’m going to hurt myself.” She looked up and seemed to consider his question, “Probably not in this current climate. I don’t see any of them coming to Britain right now. But you could certainly go there.” Instantly his face hardened, “No. I’m staying.”

    She sighed, “I expected as much. I will say I’ve reached out already for correspondence once I saw how far the tree had come. Perhaps you will get a letter from Theodora, I am still waiting for replies back.” “Thank you professor.” And with that, he focused on his own plan for the tree. Friday would be a good day.

    “Detention Mister Longbottom.” Professor Carrow drawled out, not even looking up from his book. The effort the ‘professor’ had put into the lessons had plummeted after the first Dark Arts test. No one had passed, not even Draco.

    Neville nodded, not trusting his voice. Partly out of excitement, and partly because the swelling in his throat still hadn’t gone down from the demonstration curse. But that was ok. He didn’t need to talk tonight.

    The line of witches and wizards was 20 long on most nights now. No one dared arrive late after Seamus’ week-long stay in the hospital wing for skipping detention. Tonight everyone watched with great confusion as Neville walked past them, one by one. Behind him, like a disobedient dog, was Trevor on a leash. The aged toad skidded and slid along the flagstones as Nevilled walked a full two meters ahead. His stride was steady and purposeful as he walked to the front of the line smiling down at Mandy Partridge. He pulled the leash, reeling trevor in like a fish on a line. He slipped off the harness and she saw how it was made of leaves stitched together. She almost squeaked as he handed her the toad. “Hold him for me please.” She was too surprised that her personal hero had handed his familiar to her to do more than just nod her head. Almost immediately, the Carrows door opened, and Neville pulled a flower out of his pocket, before crushing it in his hand and shoving the petals into his robes. He strode in just as the first call for “Next!” The door slammed shut behind him, and Trevor made a break for it. Mandy quickly snatched him back. She had a job and she wasn’t going to screw it up. But what was Neville thinking?

    The hours stretched on. The whispers had come and gone, and now everyone was morbidly curious. Was he dead? Had they finally gone too far? Or had he beat them? Everyone knew he always fought back, was he still fighting? “He was so confident. I’m sure he’s got a plan.” Mandy said, and apparently they believed the toad holding girl, as no one knocked to check on him.

    Finally, after what seemed like ages, the midnight bell rang, and Neville hobbled out. The skin of his right hands was missing, and he held his wand in a death-grip in his left. Mandy felt dizzy at the sight of the bloody hand. “Alright you lot. Off to bed with you.” The sallow Carrow called out, shutting the door. No one disagreed, and they scattered back to their dorms. Mustering her courage, Mandy spread dittany on Neville’s hand, keeping Trevor from running through some careful maneuvering. Finally, they reached the common room, and the two of them stared at the fire. It seemed brighter somehow.

    “What happened there? You were gone for so long.” She finally asked. Neville shrugged and threw some brown leaves and flower petals into the fire. “Guess they struggled to get me to learn discipline. You can ask them tomorrow if you want.” His mind was already filling in the five hours of ‘discipline’ he had received, but he knew that he had gotten off pretty light. More importantly though, 19 other students got off entirely.

    “How did you do that? What are those leaves? Were they forget-me-nots? Or maybe poppies? But it’s the poppy flower that numbs pain” The questions tumbled out of her, and Neville was surprised by the focus of her questions. “Mandy, if you really want to learn more Herbology, I’ll be happy to teach you.”

    Neville then had another very un-Neville thought. Harry was a prodigy in Defense against the Dark Arts. Dumbledore’s Army had been his project to teach them all what he knew. And after several fights, perhaps this was Neville’s opportunity to teach his Herbology and Harry’s Defense against the Dark Arts. “If you really want to learn more. Meet me in the 7th floor corridor by the painting of the dancing trolls tonight at seven.”

    Thrice before, Neville had swallowed his terror and dome something really brave. He had fought against the death eaters last year, but he had luck on his side. He had fought in the ministry, but he was with Harry. This time facing the Carrows was like the first time. Get up, say your piece, and take the spell like the man. And Dumbledore was right, it took great courage to stand up to his friends.

    But as Neville walked into the first meeting of Dumbledore’s Army reborn, he realized that it took even more courage to stand up in place of your friends.
  2. Ched

    Ched Da Trek Moderator DLP Supporter ⭐⭐

    Jan 6, 2009
    The South
    6517 words
  3. Ched

    Ched Da Trek Moderator DLP Supporter ⭐⭐

    Jan 6, 2009
    The South
    Neville! Excellent. And Sprout too? W00t!

    Neville reached over and gave her a hug, holding her even as he shook himself with fear.
    I think that should be ‘even as he himself shook’ ?

    August had been a hell of a month, but he’d gotten to all of the Professor’s kids. What had surprised him was that all of them had listened. None of the muggleborns had come to the castle; he was in awe sometimes with how much they listened to him. Well, listening to her through him.
    The Professor’s kids? The professors have kids? And then you imply they’re all muggleborn, so I’m a bit confused. I think you mean that he got to all of the kids from each house that might be discriminated against and told them to stay away? And who is the ‘her’ that they are listening to through him, Sprout?

    You are holding in your hands on your NEWT course.
    Phrasing is weird here – perhaps “You are holding your NEWT course in your hands.” ?

    ...and was left of his class knew what Snape looked like in his grandmother’s hat.
    Missing a word here too – I think it’s “and what was left of” instead.

    I like the atmosphere of this story. Neville feels about like himself and I can easily envision this being what it was like for him during DH when Harry isn’t there. There’s an undercurrent of fear and danger that’s present but not immediate. Neville feels like a teen dipping his toe into adult responsibilities. He’s willing to stand up what he feels is right, just like Harry, but since this is Neville (who is NOT Harry) he’s not throwing a tantrum about it, just quietly standing his ground. He’s safe in the hospital wing (for now) but he’ll have to venture back out later, and that feels brave while also heavily implying that he’s only safe at all because he’s a pureblood (because you made sure we knew that he’d gotten the muggleborns to stay away).

    It’s a good setting / atmosphere / characterization. The writing feels a bit amateurish but that can be massaged out with edits as your craft improves.

    You wanted to see my professor?”
    You wanted to see me professor?

    It was two weeks later that Neville finally felt confident in his research to plant the seeds. He had hedged his bets, planting each of the four seeds in slightly different beds in greenhouse six. Sprout still hadn’t come up with a plan for the greenhouse, and had given it to Neville for his project.
    So, what’s the difference in the NEWT class and this preliminary Mastery thing she’s set up for him? The same seeds were supposed to be for both, right?

    Need to make a new paragraph whenever a new character speaks – you’ve got one paragraph where where a Professor and Neville are both speaking in the same paragraph, when Mandy is getting bullied.

    I find myself struggling not to skim as we go from here – the content is interesting but most of the paragraphs are long and it begins to feel tiring to read.

    More paragraph issues with Sprout and Neville talking in a single paragraph – split some of these up and vary the length a bit and you’ll find readability skyrocket.

    Great idea, having Blaise assume that Neville’s Mastery Herbology project is a secret project he’s working on for Harry – that’s a fantastic potential source of tension.

    I like the idea that Neville’s knowledge of herbology is useful to his fellow students due to the fact that they’re getting tortured (more or less) and that this prompts him to want to share that knowledge, which leads into him realizing that he could revive the DA and continue what Harry started as well.

    Good ending line.

    I like what I see here – which is a solid mix of Neville’s time in the greenhouses doing Herbology with the horrifying realities of life at Hogwarts during his 7th year – but it doesn’t flow very well or keep my attention to the extent I wish it did (partly due to the awkward paragraphs).

    I’d consider posting in WbA after a round of edits from your competition reviews. This is a solid story idea that needs some finessing to shine. Thanks for entering!
  4. BTT

    BTT Viol̀e͜n̛t͝ D̶e͡li͡g҉h̛t҉s̀ ~ Prestige ~

    Aug 31, 2011
    Cyber City Oedo
    High Score:
    Use paragraphs better. Please. I saw your first little wall of text and I immediately thought "I'd rather not, actually," and wondered if I could start skimming already. I don't think I'll be the only one. I can't overstate how little appeal giant paragraphs have to me. If this is the result of copypasting from another program, then go through manually and re-add linebreaks if you must. Fix your shit.

    I could comment on the story, but to be frank I started skipping about a third of the way through. I noticed occasional stuff, like Hannah being there without comment when she left Hogwarts in HBP and only returned for the Battle of Hogwarts. A lot of the piece seems to be Neville getting into trouble for standing up to the Death Eaters, getting tortured, and using the fact he's recovering from torture to do some Herbology-related stuff, before getting caught up in trouble again.

    There's a lot of trimming that could be done here. Ironic, given it's about Herbology, but still. I actually expected the Herbology thing to play into Neville figuring out how to take the punishment better, with time magic being involved and whatnot, but at the end it seems it didn't? He never mentions it in his final bit of narration, anyway. Weird.

    So yeah. Take a chainsaw to this overgrown shrubbery and trim it. And use more paragraphs, for the love of God. 2/5.
  5. haphnepls

    haphnepls Seventh Year

    Mar 26, 2019
    There are some paragraphs like this one that are overly telly, in a sense that speaks about the things we're already aware of. As you said, everyone knows that Neville is afraid of Snape.

    Paragraphs are all over the places please fix that because I wasn't kidding when I mentioned headache.

    The things I liked were a slice of life from Hogwarts because I'm really a sucker for those and it was completed surprisingly well, and Neville is a great character for it. I also liked Herbology bits.

    The things I did not like include all the extra words I had to go through in order to come to the bits I wanted to read about. I think I'd lose about 1/3 of the words in order to flesh out the rest. But if you like it this way...sure.

    I got all mellowed when I read the ending, and maybe I'm overreacting but it was impossibly sweet to me, and I really liked it, and it's very Neville-like and I'm glad he got some recognition in this story.

    But do be a little easier on your readers' poor eyes, and introduce a concept of line breaks into your good work.
  6. Shinysavage

    Shinysavage Madman With A Box ~ Prestige ~

    Nov 16, 2009
    High Score:
    I found the writing a bit dry at times, possibly largely because of the fairly in-depth discussion of herbology and plants, but on the whole I actually really liked this one, to be honest. Excellent use of the prompt, both in that there's a clear mentor/mentee relationship between Sprout and Neville, and in that Neville takes his own steps towards becoming a mentor to others. It's nicely handled, and feels (mostly) like a faithful interpretation of what could have been happening off screen in canon (the bit about Neville going round telling various kids not to come back was the most outlandish touch for me, but it's hardly the most outrageous thing ever written in fanfic). Neville definitely felt in character, Sprout probably was - I mostly remember her from the movies, really, which isn't necessarily the most accurate rendition. The Carrows felt a bit more subdued than I remember them being, but equally, we don't see them in this sort of context in canon.

    Technically, it all seemed mostly fine - I haven't done a close reading for errors, but nothing leapt out at me. I know others have highlighted the paragraphs, and it's a fair point, which possibly contributes to my feeling about it being a bit dry, but I didn't find it awful. Overall though, it's a nicely done piece that actually feels like it's told a complete story. 4/5.
  7. Red

    Red High Inquisitor DLP Supporter

    Apr 11, 2008
    This is wonderful.

    There are misspellings, missed capitalization and grammar errors that need fixing, sure, but I'm here for the content. And the content is great. Neville feels in character and it feels like you showed some pivotal character growth that we were unable to witness in canon. There is a clear Mentor/Mentee relationship with Sprout, and more than that you have Neville drawing from other sources of mentorship; Harry's bravery, Dumbledore's wisdom. Even Snape's betrayal has taught him a harsh lesson.

    The whole Lotus flower/time-dilation elements were a bit superfluous, but I enjoyed the bits of Herbology magical theory (Huegrass was neat). The bits about the varying soils felt well informed. You also have Neville waving his wand to make tea early and these little details make it feel very HP. You crafted a great atmosphere. Even Carrow's lesson, Aderm, the wand movement, the lecture of emotions and the Dark Arts, had the spirit of canon.

    I like the ending line, but I felt like the end didn't tie everything together in a satisfying way. That said, this entry is the most complete story and best use of prompt. Fix the grammar issues and throw this up as a one-shot somewhere. 4/5.
  8. Shouldabeenadog

    Shouldabeenadog Death Eater

    Sep 3, 2010
    the paragraphs are overlarge. fix it.

    The Hannah relationship isn't canon and doesn't seem to add anything. Could it instead have been a different girl, Padma for example? While Colin Creevy would actually work in the same supportive role, he would be far more animated. I'm not sure that would be appropriate for this story. I think it needs someone quiet. Neville, Sprout, Mandy and Zabini are the main characters, with the Carrows as the antagonist. Someone loud might shake up how the main character group works.
    You could just keep her and say screw canon, but I always feel that canon should be respected unless its being changed for a reason.
    You know who would be interesting? Marietta Edgecombe. Disfigured and embarassed, she could certainly serve as a quiet support person, and could serve as a redemption arc.
    And importantly for canon, no one knows what happened to her.

    It feels cheap to just have one plant for the discussion. Its good to have the throwaway plants that are discussed, but maybe having a second 'main character plant' could be a nice addition.

    You could add a few more scenes and pad it out, give more Mandy and Neville interaction to sort of show the "from generation to generation" love of plants from sprout to neville to mandy.
  9. happyg

    happyg First Year

    Oct 1, 2015
    High Score:
    This was good fun. I really enjoyed Neville's adventures in herbology and the lore and world building there really added to the piece. I could read and enjoy an extended, adventures in herbology sort of story if the details were as well constructed as yours here.

    For criticism, there are some grammatical flaws certainly, and some places where word choice and even plot devices might be moved around.

    The most at issue is a lack of physical, personal description of Neville during the less fun parts for him. He is the protagonist, we don't feel as he does well enough. There are moments, but generally the low points for Neville aren't low enough for the audience, it gives it a bit of a shallow feeling compared to the vibrant, well built moments in the greenhouse.

    Overall I enjoyed it! Good work.
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