These characters belong to Jo Rowling. I only peeked into their heads, and then gave them back. I also need to thank ehnel and ghostlygrove for their hand in digging up Dean, my soup-r man of a tri-delta for being a heroic stickler, and NightZephyr, my constantly wonderful and wonderfully constant beta.
Neville Longbottom misses Potions.
It's one of about eighty-seven things about himself that a year ago he'd never have thought possible.
He knows all the rest are good things, things for which he ought to be thankful. He has his own wand, a wand that picked him and does what he wants and never seems to wobble with disappointment over who isn't holding it. He has the grudging respect of his grandmother's shrewish friends, and even of his grandmother herself. He has at least Acceptables in all of his courses, he doesn't have Transfiguration, and he does have a little bit of stubble that needs to be shaved more frequently than the moon cycles make his Mimbulus Mimbletonia molt.
And he doesn't have Potions. That should be one more thing that leaves Neville grateful, giddy at his good fortune. And it still makes his legs tremble a little under his robes when he recalls Snape's dungeon, the way it smelled, and dripped, and seemed to close in on him as each hour progressed. Neville certainly doesn't miss that. He doesn't miss Snape's hovering or his leering or his penchant for draughts that demanded pickled-toad parts.
But sometimes, in between all that, there would be something that Neville really does miss. That, though, is a shame he would never be able to admit. It would be harboring disloyalty to people he respected a lot if he did, if he acknowledged that he liked anything about those moments other than the fleeting feelings of success and relief. That was it, nothing more, Neville insisted to himself -- nothing to do with the way her sometimes-harsh voice seemed to soften when she'd whisper to him which way to stir, or how many times, or to chop his arrowroot diagonally. Or that he could do it, really, he could, like she believed that all he needed was a little care and encouragement and then he'd be as good as anybody else.
Neville Longbottom stares from his corner of the common room to the spot beneath a tall window where Harry Potter and Ron Weasley are having the twelve uses of dragon's blood re-outlined for them by Hermione Granger -- he knows it's dragon's blood because he recognizes the way she gesticulates when they get to oven-cleaning -- and he can't miss what they have. But he can miss Potions.
He knows it's ungrateful of him. If he were still in Potions, and had her helping him again, then he would lose what he'd earned when she'd been injured at the Department of Mysteries. He'd finally been there to look out for her instead of the other way around. So now he's free from the awful impotence of being unable to repay a debt. Neville cherishes that freedom and he understands why things have to be the way they are. What he doesn't understand is why Harry and Ron don't seem to see -- let alone cherish -- the girl with the big hair and bigger heart.
Neville Longbottom misses Potions. And he thinks Harry Potter is missing what he's missing, only in a different way -- that perhaps he needs new glasses, because he seems to be blind at close range.
Dean misses Ginny.
She's twirling that fantastic hair around her wand right across the table from him, but he misses her anyway. She has the dreamy, almost far-away look in her eye that he swears would re-awaken the world's passion for art if only she'd consent to let him draw her like that. But whenever he suggests it, she laughs at him. And that only makes him love her more, because then she arches her fine neck, and the tremble of the Common Room firelight adds shades to that vibrant hair, and she just exudes life like nothing he's ever seen.
He used to think she reserved that look only for him, but now he doubts if he's ever earned it even once. Now he knows that neither her gaze nor her mind is as far away as it appears. They're both fixed over his shoulder, because Harry Potter is polishing his broom under the window there. And Ginny's fancy isn't being captivated by the broom, although she loves that, too. (Who wouldn't?) It's the boy holding it.
Dean doesn't kid himself about that. It was one of the first things he learned growing up, not to kid himself.
Don't kid yourself that he's coming home for this birthday, his mother would tell him. Don't kid yourself. I don't. He probably doesn't even know what month you were born.
If Dean's mother ever started a religion, he was sure the fifth commandment would be Thou Shalt Not Kid.
So, Dean does not kid himself. He knows where his girlfriend's heart is, even if she'd never in a million years admit it. He knows that, whether or not she was ever really his at all, she is even less so now, for some reason. And he misses the days when she almost was, the days when the blush she wore when she caught him staring was pleased, not guilty.
It was a more delicate shade of pink she would turn then, and he'd beg her to stay while he got some paints to capture it. She was truly the world's most beautiful creature, his Ginevra. In that way, she would always be his.
But in every other way, she belonged to Harry Potter. Stupid, blind Harry Potter, who couldn't even see that the goddess of Gryffindor glowed a bit more just for him.
Ginny hops up to tell Harry something about the last Quidditch practice, and Dean turns to watch her go. He can't tear his eyes away. Her hair bounces and her robes swish and she's there, starting the conversation off with a joke. Harry, looking up from his broom, shoves his glasses away from where they've slid down his nose, completely oblivious to the fact that the smile she's flashing him is his and his alone, never bestowed upon any other boy.
The glasses don't help him much, Dean muses. They're thick as glass bottles and yet the boy still can't see what's in front of his own face. A little kid named Colin asked Dean once whether he thought Harry was nearsighted or farsighted. Students asked Dean ridiculous questions like that all the time, since sharing a dormitory with the Boy Who Lived apparently made him a Potter expert. Dean had said nearsighted because Harry wore the glasses all the time in classes, when he had to see the board.
But now Dean is changing his mind. Harry Potter couldn't possibly be nearsighted, not if he can't see what a marvel he has right there in front of his face.