The Sugar Quill
Author: Fitzette  Story: Neville Longbottom - True Gryffindor  Chapter: Default
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Transfiguration was hard

Author’s Note: Felina Black is love.

 

 

 

Transfiguration was hard. It was really, really hard, and instead of helping, the two hours Neville had spent studying in the library only served to leave him frustrated and angry.

 

Giving up for the night, Neville closed his copy of A Beginner’s Guide to Transfiguration and slipped it into his bag, along with his quill and the parchment he had been scribbling notes on. He fumbled a bit with the latch before finally closing the bag. Madame Pince was watching him; she’d been doing it all night. Without meeting her gaze, Neville swung his bag over his shoulder and walked from the library. He had barely taken half a dozen steps when he heard behind him the slow drawl of Draco Malfoy.

 

“What are you doing in the library, Longbottom?”

 

Neville gripped his bag tighter and kept walking.

 

“You couldn’t have been studying. It wouldn’t do you any good, Squib.”

 

Determined to ignore him, Neville quickened his pace. All he wanted was to get back to Gryffindor Tower, and perhaps he would have done had he not been struck forcefully in the back by a curse. Neville’s legs simply stopped working. His bag slipped from his grasp and he pitched forward onto his hands, which he flung up to cushion his fall. His arms caught his weight and the wrist he’d broken during their first flying lesion buckled. Neville crashed hard into the stone floor.

 

“I’ve been looking for someone to try that on,” Malfoy laughed.

 

Neville pushed himself up and, with some difficulty, flipped over. His legs were immobile and sticking straight out from his body. “Let me go.”

 

“And why would I do that?”

 

“Come on, Malfoy,” Neville said, hating the shaky tone of his voice. “You’ve had your fun, now let me go.”

 

“It’s a standard Leg Locker curse, Longbottom. Surely you know the counter curse?”

 

Gritting his teeth, Neville stared down at his legs and shook his head. Malfoy laughed again. “You should have been in Hufflepuff with all the other losers, Longbottom. You haven’t got a knuts worth of brains or courage. You’re pathetic.”

 

Without another word, Malfoy turned and strode down the hallway. Neville watched him go. For a moment, he considered shouting for help, or dragging himself back into the library. But no, this was bad enough without crawling half-paralyzed into the library and begging Madame Pince for help. He’d simply have to get back to Gryffindor Tower. Somehow. He’d get back to Gryffindor Tower and find Hermione. Hermione would fix this.

 

Swallowing down the sob that was struggling in his throat, Neville placed one hand on either side of his legs and pushed. No, that wasn’t going to work. He slid his palms back about a foot and tried again. No. Exhaling through his nose, Neville laid back and rolled over so that he was flat on his stomach. The stone floor was cool against his face. With a grunt, Neville pushed himself up on his hands. Sweating with the effort, Neville walked his hands backwards until he was bent almost in half. With an enormous amount of effort, he stood up.

 

His arms were trembling and Neville felt fairly certain that had his legs not been locked together, they would have been trembling as well. His chest was heaving with deep unsteady breaths and he could taste the salt of the sweat beading on his lip. And then he saw his bag, lying on the floor several feet from him.

 

Tears of frustration filled Neville’s eyes. He blinked rapidly and then, knees locked together, hopped over to his bag. He braced one hand against the wall and bent over, but the hand was slippery with sweat and it slid along the wall. Neville found himself once more on the floor. With his forehead against the stone, Neville whispered a word he had only ever heard the Weasley twins use. It felt good. He said it again.

 

But swearing wasn’t going to get him back to the common room. Shoving aside his frustration, Neville reached out and grabbed his bag. He struggled with the straps for a few moments before getting them looped over his arms and, having successfully done so once, managed to get to his feet with slightly more ease this time.

 

Down a hallway, up a staircase. Neville was profoundly glad it was so late and the corridors were deserted. He wasn’t sure he could bear the further humiliation of having a crowd watching as he bunny hopped back to the Gryffindor common room. It was bad enough that he could hear the mutterings of the portraits as he passed by.

 

Since he had no one to talk to, and plenty of time to pass, Neville was able to search his brain and remember the password and give it to the Fat Lady once he reached the portrait hole. She raised her eyebrows.

 

“Oh, dear. What happened?”

 

“Stupid Slytherin,” he muttered, looking down at his feet.

 

“I see,” she replied. “Yes, well, they are a rather unpleasant lot.”

 

Neville nodded. “I know.”

 

“So, how are you going to get into the common room, dear?”

 

“What?” Neville cried, feeling near tears. “But I gave you the password!”

“Well, yes, but you can hardly get through the door when you’ve got two good legs; and in this state…”

 

“What am I going to do? I can’t just sit here in the hallway and wait for someone to come by! It’s almost curfew!”

 

“Yes, yes, you certainly don’t want to lose any points for Gryffindor.”

 

“I know!” Neville shouted in anguish.

 

“All right, dear, calm down. Working yourself up won’t do anyone any good.”

 

“So what am I going to do?”

 

“Well,” she said thoughtfully, “how high can you jump?”

 

“Like this?” he said incredulously, motioning to his legs.

 

“Yes, like that, unless you know the counter curse, in which case I can’t imagine why you hopped all the way down the hallway, making so much noise and waking every portrait along the way!”

 

Taken aback, Neville stared at her for a long moment. Then he bent his knees and gave a feeble hop.

 

“Oh, go on,” she said, rolling her eyes. “You can do better than that.”

 

Neville squatted as low to the floor as he could without toppling over –he didn’t much fancy the Fat Lady bearing witness to a fumbling attempt to regain his footing – and jumped as high as he could.

 

“Excellent!” she exclaimed, clapping her hands together. “Well done. Now, here’s what we’re going to do. Come a bit closer…no just a bit…yes that’s it, just there. Now, I’m going to count, and when I get to three, I’ll swing open and you leap as hard as you can into the common room. Can you do that?”

 

“Yeah,” he replied, bending his knees again.

 

“Very good. Ready? All right, one…two…three!”

 

She swung open and Neville jumped with all his might. When he felt the carpet beneath his cheek and heard the laughter of his classmates, Neville knew he had gotten through. He was terribly embarrassed, but at least he was safe. Now he just needed to find Hermione. And there she was, hurrying towards him with her wand drawn. She quickly cast the counter curse and helped Neville to his feet. He smiled at her gratefully as she led him over to the couch.

 

“What happened?” she asked, gesturing towards the seat beside Ron. Trembling, he took it.

 

“Malfoy,” he answered. “I met him outside the library. He said he’d been looking for someone to practice that on.”

 

“Go to Professor McGonagall! Report him!” Hermione exclaimed.

 

Neville shook his head. “I don’t want any more trouble.”

 

“You’ve got to stand up to him, Neville,” urged Ron. “He’s used to walking all over people, but that’s no reason to lie down in front of him and make it easier.”

 

The tears were back, just behind Neville’s eyes. “There’s no need to tell me I’m not brave enough to be in Gryffindor, Malfoy’s already done that.”

 

There was a sudden rustling, and Neville looked over to see Harry digging around in the pocket of his robe. He pulled out a Chocolate Frog and held it out. Neville took it with shaking fingers.

 

“You’re worth twelve of Malfoy,” Harry said fervently. “The Sorting Hat chose you for Gryffindor, didn’t it? And where’s Malfoy? In stinking Slytherin.”

 

He looked so earnest that Neville felt himself giving a weak smile. He unwrapped the Frog and slipped the card from the paper.

 

“Thanks, Harry,” he said, holding the Famous Wizard card out to him. “I think I’ll go to bed. D’you want the card, you collect them, don’t you?”

 

Harry took the card and gave Neville another reassuring smile. Clutching the Frog in one hand and the wrapper in the other, Neville climbed the stairs and made his way to the first-year dormitory. Once he was there, he sat down on his bed and ate every bite of chocolate. The he rolled over onto his stomach, buried his head in his arms and cried straight into them.

 

Sometime later, Neville awoke with a pounding head and aching eyes. He didn’t know how long he’d been asleepi indeed he didn’t remember falling asleep, but judging by the darkness in the room and the snores coming from behind Ron’s curtains, it was late.

 

Neville sat up in the bed. He was still clutching the crumpled wrapper of the Chocolate Frog Harry had given him. Quietly, Neville swung his legs off the bed and stood up. He crept to the foot of his bed and opened his trunk. There, beneath sweaters, trousers and an extra set of robes was a small plain wooden box. Neville lifted it gently and closed the trunk. He picked his bag up from where it lay on the floor and climbed back onto his bed, drawing the curtains around him.

 

“Lumos.”

 

The tip of Neville’s wand erupted in light. He paused and listened for stirrings from the other beds, but there was none. The hangings on the bed were thick and heavy.

 

With one hand on his wand, Neville lifted to top off the box he’d taken from his trunk. Inside lay dozens and dozens of Drooble's Best Blowing Gum wrappers. Neville ran his fingers over them tenderly. Then he smoothed out the Chocolate Frog wrapper and, after a moment’s hesitation, placed it carefully inside the box. Blinking rapidly against the gritty tears in his eyes, Neville placed the lid back on the box.

 

He set it aside and reached into his bag. His hand closed over a quill, then a bit of parchment. Neville brought them out and laid the parchment atop the smooth lid of the wooden box. He lowered his quill.

 

Dear Mum and Dad,

 

I’ve made a new friend…

//
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