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Published: 09/21/2004
Updated: 01/14/2005
Words: 139,369
Chapters: 38
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Harry Potter and the Goblin Rebellion


Story Summary:
Year 6 - The goblins are threatening rebellion: Now that Fudge acknowledges Voldemort's return, he is pushing wartime policies, which oppress the goblins. Voldemort is seeking the secret in an ancient Egyptian magical site. Harry is being drawn into these two seemingly-unrelated developments. At the same time, he must train students in the schoolwide DA, while the burden of the Prophecy is filling him with visions, which cause Harry to pull back from his friends. But love has a way of arising whether it is welcome or not. For Harry, the course to resolution is never smooth, but if Harry can thwart Voldemort's plot, he can gain access to the secret which could enable him to use the 'Power the Dark Lord knows not.'

Chapter 08

Chapter Summary:
Harry and Dobby spend a weekend with Neville and Grandmother Longbottom. Harry sees how the Longbottoms treat their house elves. Harry and Neville get surprising OWL results. Mrs. Longbottom teaches Harry about more intensive dueling and using two wands at once. The Longbottoms and Harry visit Alice and Frank Longbottom at St. Mungo's, and Harry is given reason to question how addled Alice Logbottom is when she secretly hands him a collection of gum wrappers.

Chapter 8 Longbottom Manor

Harry loved being at The Burrow, but he found it practically a relief to get away. He hurt with worry over the people he cared about and he couldn't be with any of the Weasleys for more than five minutes without a death vision.

Back in Little Whinging, he resumed his personal training routine and visited with Mrs. Figg while she was brewing potions. On Wednesday evening, he heard Dumbledore's voice in the two-way mirror again. Dumbledore asked about his death visions (still happening, more frequently), his scar hurting (only occasional twinges, no strong pains), his Occlumency practice (progress, Harry thought, but not perfect, as his mind still on occasion turned darkly to those who had hurt the people in his life and who, more importantly, still wanted to hurt them) and his training. Dumbledore tried to reassure Harry that he should not shy away from his friends, that all were stronger together than any were separately. Harry's head understood this, but his heart had misgivings. Then Dumbledore told him he had arranged another weekend with a friend.

"Hermione?" asked Harry brightly, "I'd love to see what her home is like!"

"No, I believe your training would be a bit too frightening for her parents. I'm afraid we might not see her back at Hogwarts if they saw one of her best friends training like a commando," explained Dumbledore.

Harry looked downward "Is it fair to them to not tell them the danger she's in being around me."

"Aah, well, there's no going back now - Voldemort knows you love her dearly. She would certainly not be safe trying to return to a muggle life. Besides, we need witches of her caliber and you need her particularly. And do you think that anything would keep her in muggle life after five years at Hogwarts? But rather than Miss Granger, I was speaking with Mrs. Longbottom and mentioned that I was arranging weekends for you to visit with your friends and she was quite insistent that you visit Neville."

"Well, I like Neville just fine, it'd be nice to visit him," said Harry, "but his grandmother is kind of, erm,"

"Intimidating?" laughed Dumbledore "Yes, she has that affect on me as well. And indeed she is a very powerful witch. Not that either of us has anything to fear from her - she is resolutely against Voldemort and the Dark Arts. Still, she is usually so stern it is hard to imagine her showing the slightest hint of levity, and yet I remember when she was a schoolgirl here, a laughing, giddy schoolgirl - powerful, excellent with spells, a real duelist - but light-hearted. I think it will be a good experience for you to see other magical homes."

So two days later, after boxing on Friday night, Harry again grabbed his trunk and allowed Dobby to take his hand and Apparate him away from Privet Drive. Just as they were about to leave, he saw an image of the whole house around him destroyed and the Dursleys dead. He tried to shake it off as Dobby Apparated the two of them. This time they appeared in the courtyard of a manor house on the English-Welsh border region. It was surrounded by rolling hills, farmland and pastures. They approached the door, well-lit by the early evening sun, and knocked. In a few seconds, the door opened and they were greeted by a house elf. Harry introduced himself and Dobby, and then Neville came bounding down the stairs.

"Hi, Harry, glad you could come. It'll be great to have company."

"It's good to be here, Neville. This is a great place," said Harry.

"Oh, it's pretty enough, but kind of cold. There aren't many other kids nearby, and no other wizarding family. Gilly?" Neville said to the house elf, "Please tell Gran that Harry Potter and his elf are here."

"Oh, he's not 'mine' - he's free and works for Hogwarts, he's been assigned to keep me out of trouble this summer" said Harry, "I thought you might know him, he cleans the Gryffindor dorm, but well, Neville, this is Dobby, Dobby, this is Neville Longbottom.".

"It is a great pleasure to meet Neville Longbottom, of whom Harry Potter has spoken with both great affection and great pride," said Dobby, bowing very low.

"Uh, yeah, pleased to meet you, too." said Neville, with a quizzical look at Harry, "I'm surprised you brought him, Harry. Gilly and Gumbo can take care of anything you might need, and this house is as safe as any wizard home around."

"Well, he can Apparate me places, and Dumbledore wants me to have the extra protection. Besides, Dobby's a friend of mine (Dobby beamed at that). I like having him around."

"Hmm, friends with a house elf, that's odd" said Neville.

"Is there something wrong with that?" asked Harry.

"Oh. No, not really, I guess. I've just never met any others than Gilly and Gumbo. They've been with the Longbottoms for ages, before my father was born, at least. I suppose they were my most common playmates growing up, but I never really thought about it. They're just ... part of the family."

"Yes," interrupted Mrs. Longbottom, who had just arrived "unlike some old families, we do not differentiate unnecessarily between the house elves and any other part of our family. I am pleased to see you again, Mr. Potter."

"Please, call me Harry, and it's a pleasure to see you again, Maam," Harry replied, "May I ask what you mean by 'unnecessarily'?"

"Of course," Mrs. Longbottom replied with a gracious smile. "They are not humans, so we don't treat them as such. For instance, they like some human foods and not others, and they eat other foods few humans would taste. But they are intelligent and magical beings, so we treat them accordingly. It is in their nature to be a part of a family. Even Gilly and Gumbo's children were part of our immediate family, until they were old enough to move to other Longbottoms' households. House elves are lost and very uncomfortable without a family. They find the thought abhorrent. Isn't that so, Dobby?

Dobby jumped at being addressed, and then said "Most are, Maam. Dobby is proud to be a free elf."

"I know, Dobby. Professor Dumbledore has told me all about your situation. You are indeed the only elf I have heard of who desired freedom, and that is obviously most unusual. Normally an elf is devoted absolutely to his family no matter how cruel that elf's family might be. And yet, did you not desire the comfort of having a family even after you became free?"

"Yes, Maam. Dobby likes freedom, but Dobby loves his Hogwarts family, too."

"And," continued Mrs. Longbottom, "unless I am reading things wrong, you have gone quite some way toward adopting Mr. Potter as family."

"Yes, Maam," said Dobby quietly, "Harry Potter is a great wizard and a kind one. He set me free and he treats other beings well."

"You shant be having any argument in this house on that, Dobby. In addition, Harry, house elves express their affection for their families by the work that they do. Of course, that is the reason that a family adopts a house elf initially. Some learn to love and be loyal to their house elves in return, and some don't know how to do so. They probably cannot so act among themselves, much less toward other species. In the Longbottom house, I can assure you that the relationship is not at all parasitic, but is as symbiotic as any family could be," said Mrs. Longbottom, reaching to lay a hand tenderly on Gilly's head, as she smiled in response "No house elf wants for care or affection here. Now, Neville, will you show Harry up to his room. Harry, you will have the room next to Neville's. Dobby, would you prefer to stay in Harry's room or find a separate space to your liking?"

"Oh. Maam, you are so gracious," said Dobby, "but Dobby can best protect Harry Potter if he shares a room - if Harry Potter wouldn't mind, sir?

"We've been sharing all summer, why would I complain now?"

"As you both prefer," said Mrs. Longbottom, "We will be dining in one hour. Neville, why don't you show Harry around the manor after he gets settled?"

Dobby went to the kitchens to help with dinner and spend time with his fellow elves. Neville and Harry brought Harry's trunk and Dobby's suitcase up the stairs to a room next to Neville's that was as big as the Weasleys' living room, but was nowhere near as inviting. Not that it was unpleasant, just cold and stodgy. Neville started the manor tour with his own room. It was oddly neat for a boy nearly 16 years old.

"Do the elves keep it this neat? It's neater than your part of the dorm," asked Harry.

"Well, they do the cleaning, but I don't make messes. I never really have. I've mostly always spent my time in the greenhouses out back and in the fields and forests. I even keep a few plants over here by the window" said Neville, leading Harry over toward a small dresser with plants atop it.

"Oh, there's the plant you kept all last year in the d - ow!" said Harry, as he stubbed his toe against a drawer.

"Are you okay, Harry? Sorry about that," said Neville "I could have sworn that was closed. I'll get it."

"I'm right here, I'll get it" said Harry. Harry was certain the drawer had been closed when they came in as well. He bent down to shut the drawer and caught a glimpse inside. "That's odd," he said, "you've got this filled with candy wrappers - no, not just any candy, they're all gum wrappers."

Neville got very ill at ease, but nodded "Yes. Drooble's Best Blowing Gum "

"I remember now. Your mother gave you one when we saw you at St. Mungo's. Your Gran said to toss it, but you slipped it into your pocket. That broke my heart."

Neville nodded, tearing up a little "There's very little sensible contact I get with my parents. Sometimes they look at me like they're trying to reach into me, but usually they just seem vacant. When I was just seven, I had some gum with me. When I took the wrapper off, my mother picked it up. The next visit she returned the wrapper to me. It said to me that she remembered me, in some little addled way. So I kept it. You probably think that's stupid."

Harry was sniffling a bit now, trying to restrain himself. "Not at all. What wouldn't I give for some remembrance from my parents? And yet, after meeting yours, I've at times thought that maybe I was luckier. Mine are over and done with. I always wished I had parents, but I knew they were gone. But you see your parents and yet, they aren't really there, are they? In a sense, we're both orphans."

Harry put a hand on Neville's shoulder and he nodded his understanding of what Harry was saying. Then Neville gave a small smile, "At least I have my Gran and Uncle Algie and Aunt Enid. I know they love me even though my Gran is, erm, somewhat difficult, and Uncle Algie is kind of offbeat"

"Well, we don't need to compete for who got the shorter end of the stick. Let's make a pact, you and I, not to rest until those responsible have been stopped for good," said Harry, sticking out his hand. Neville shook it with zest.

"But she continues to give you wrappers?" asked Harry.

"Yeah, I think the staff saw her holding onto the wrappers. I don't know if they just bring in their own empty wrappers or bring in gum to her. I've never seen her chewing it, but she always has a wrapper to give me."

"That's really odd. Say, speaking of things from your parents, Neville" said Harry, "since your father's wand was broken last month, are you going to get a new one?"

"I already have it," answered Neville, "When Gran was talking to Dumbledore and learned of your training program, she wanted me on it too. So I'm supposed to join with you on all your exercise - as well as I can - and we can do magic practice in the space between the greenhouses - no muggles will see us there. She took me to Ollivander's right away to get a wand. Here it is," he added, pulling out a thin box, "Dragon heartstring in Live Oak, 13 and a half inches. Do you want to try it?"

"Not unless I have to in a pinch - that wand chose you, Neville, and it should respond best in your hands," Harry held it for a few seconds, flicking it carefully and testing the strength. "I remember reading about live oak - the British Navy was built out of it before the Americans became independent - it's very resilient and strong. Why don't you show me a Levitation or something?"

"Okay, Harry," Neville smirked, "Expelliarmus!" and Harry's wand flew out of his pocket and into Neville's hand and Harry was thrown back onto Neville's bed.

"Oh, yeah," said Harry, with a wicked grin, "EXPELLIARMUS" he shouted and both wands flew out of Neville's hands to Harry's, and Neville was thrown across the room against the wall. His grandmother knocked and then opened the door.

"Now, boys, any of the rougher spells you need to practice outdoors," she said.

"Gran!" said Neville excitedly, "Harry just stripped both wands off me when he wasn't even holding a wand."

She nodded. "Yes, I was told that this was a possibility. I wish I had seen that, Harry. But," she looked down at Neville on the floor, just getting up, "I can see that it was quite effectively performed."

"Professor Dumbledore has shared a lot with you concerning me, Mrs. Longbottom. May I ask if you are involved in the fight?" asked Harry.

"Of course you may ask, although I could always choose not to respond and, in fact, I will not to tell you all. I have a role in the efforts, but it is in matters that do not involve you, except in the broadest sense of marshalling forces against those who would harm others. For the moment my role is to be the mistress and protector of this house, where you two may visit with each other without fear of Voldemort."

She said this last part with such utter certainty that Harry knew that this stern witch was entirely capable of securing this place against practically any threat which might present itself. He marveled at the confidence, and understood why Neville had always been so cowed by her - she was a big act to live up to.

"Does it bother you that nothing appears to be happening with the Dark forces?"

"It does indeed, Harry. He is gathering strength, both people and powers. I would expect some sort of a ploy to release those captured last month in your recent skirmish, as well as efforts to gain access to important information and artifacts. Those of us who oppose him will be sharing the little signs we observe. I am certain, though, that we are in a calm before the storm and that when it hits, you will look back longingly on these days of nervous tension. So while we have the chance, let us make the preparations we must to come through the hard times as well as possible."

After dinner, Harry and Neville practiced spells and discussed the DA. The next morning Neville was up even before Harry to start the morning run. He eventually lagged behind, but kept up longer than Ginny and Ron had. After the run, Harry told him how surprised he was Neville had been able to keep up as well as he did.

"Gee, thanks, Harry," said Neville, panting through his grin. "I started as soon as we learned Dumbledore had recommended it for you, two weeks ago. I thought I would collapse at first, but I guess I'm coming along. If Dumbledore says it will make us more capable of meeting the Death Eaters, then I'm going to do it!"

"Neville, if I ever thought of slacking off, your attitude is the kick in the pants I need to get going."

"And don't think you're going to get out of it at school - we're going round the lake every morning before breakfast. I've already owled Ron and Hermione, and they and Ginny will join us."

"It'll be good having people doing it with me," said Harry gratefully.

After breakfast, they went to the exercise room Neville's parents had used when they were healthy young aurors. The equipment was a bit creaky, but it cleaned up with a few spells. In the afternoon they swam in the largest of the nearby farm ponds. When the boys came down to dinner, they each had a large golden envelope by their goblets. They saw the Hogwarts seal on the envelopes and looked at each other, with mixed excitement and dread- "Our OWLS" they said together.

"You first," said Harry.

Neville nodded weakly and tore the flap of the envelope open. He pulled out the letter, looked over the results and started gasping like a trout out of water.

"Six - I got 6 OWLs," said Neville, handing the letter to his grandmother.

"My word, Neville," she exclaimed, almost losing her composure, "you did - Charms, Defense, Potions - of all things, and Outstanding at that -, Transfiguration, Herbology and Beasts. Neville, I am so proud. And I think we owe Professor Potter here quite a debt of gratitude."

"Not me - Neville did it," said Harry.

"No, Harry, you are not going to get away with such modesty here," said Mrs. Longbottom, "Neville had been at Hogwarts four years when I sent him off last year. He was not much of a wizard then, and he only had two new teachers last year - that awful Umbridge woman and you. He certainly did not learn how to perform magic from her, that's certain. You are the factor that changed. I have even worked with him myself every break and couldn't make headway getting him to perform any spells properly."

"She's right, Harry," said Neville, "I may have done the spells for the tests, but I only learned how to make any of them work when you coached me. And as you showed me what was involved, the theory all made sense, too. It's like a switch was turned in my mind, unlocking the potential for magic."

"Well, at least give Hermione credit for Potions," said Harry "You wouldn't have gotten through that on my skills."

"Yes, Hermione and," laughed Neville, "not having Snape there for the testing.' Then Neville suddenly looked horrified "Oh, no, I was looking forward to the two final years without either Potions or Snape."

Well, Neville," said his grandmother," you must keep all your options open. It's only two more years."

Neville groaned, "Alright, Gran." Then he perked up "Okay, Harry, how about yours?"

Harry tore open his envelope and scanned the letter. His jaw too dropped "This can't be, it just can't!"

He handed the letter to Mrs. Longbottom, "Oh, my stars!"

"What is it, Gran? Is it something bad?" asked Neville.

"It's unheard of: 8 OWLS and a NEWT - Outstanding at that!"

"What!? Harry, these were only supposed to be the OWL tests" said Neville, now taking the letter his grandmother was handing him and reading "Let's see, all the same OWLS as me, plus Astronomy and Divination - that's a surprise - and a NEWT in Defense Against the Dark Arts."

"There's got to be some mistake," said Harry, "I was only a fifth year."

"No, I'm sure there was no mistake, Harry," said Mrs. Longbottom, "I see Dumbledore's tracks all over this. He has a lot of influence with the testing board. Not to get particular results, mind you, Madame Marchbanks would never stand for that, but to get them to test you at NEWT-level during the OWL tests."

"But, why would he do that? Why didn't he tell me?" asked Harry incredulously.

"Obviously he wanted you to prove yourself as a stellar Defense student," replied Mrs. Longbottom, "Any other student with an OWL in Defense might have trouble taking instructions in the Defense Association from another student, even if that other student is the Famous Harry Potter. But now you have proven yourself advanced beyond any similarly situated student - this will give the other students all the more reason to listen to you. I think he also probably wanted to show you the confidence he had in you."

"As for why he didn't tell you," she continued, "you certainly did not need the pressure of knowing you were taking a NEWT-level exam on top of all your OWLs. And if it got out that you were taking the NEWT exam this early and you failed, you would be embarrassed, even though there should have been nothing to be embarrassed about. I would recommend that neither of you make any effort to talk this up. The results will all be posted at the school, and it will be noticed. The effect on the other students will be far more pronounced if others talk about it than if you and your best friends do."

After dinner, Neville and Harry went out between the greenhouses to practice spells under the watchful eye of Mrs. Longbottom. Harry made sure that Neville was performing them all properly, and then they squared off, with Neville trying to hex Harry and Harry avoiding or blocking them. Neville's aim and reliability continued to improve. His grandmother watched, both to see how they did and to unjinx either of them if a spell got through or was reflected back at Neville. Neville was surprised to find that he could cast spells even with his fearsome grandmother there. More than once he found himself relieved that she was there to undo a spell. Then Harry showed Neville the Protego blocking spell and cast mild spells like jelly-legs at him so he could practice blocking. After a while, Neville was blocking more than were getting through. Then his grandmother stood up.

"Alright, Mr. Potter," she said with a glint in her eye, "you can get spells past a youngster - let's see how you can do against a grizzled old witch."

"Are you sure, Maam?" asked Harry.

"What, you don't think I'm good enough? Or are you afraid? If you can't handle an old lady, how can you face Voldemort!?"

"Alright, then," said Harry, reluctantly. They squared off and he began to timidly fire curses her way, which she easily blocked. He sped up, and she still deflected them. She laughed at him.

"What are you, a garden gnome? Have you never learned how to fight!? Do you want to win or not!?"

That was enough for Harry - she had asked for it. He started firing spells as fast as he could, first one every 2 second, then every second, finally reaching almost 2 spells a second. Mrs. Longbottom was handling them until he got to his fastest and then a stunner got through. Four more spells flew over her body before Harry could stop himself.

"Gran!" Neville screamed, "Are you alright? Harry, what'd you hit her with?"

"A stunner," said Harry as he performed the countercurse and she revived.

She smiled. "That's going to hurt for awhile, but it's worth it to push you to perform. Not bad, Mr. Potter. You might become a fighter yet, after all. Now it's MY turn."

Having seen how well Mrs. Longbottom could defend, Harry was a bit nervous as he faced off against her. He rehearsed in his mind all his defensive spells and avoidance moves. At a signal from Neville, she began casting spells, just as fast as Harry had ended with. Harry was barely able to keep up, and then she increased her speed even more. He jumped and rolled and blocked and reflected; after five minutes and over 350 spells, she finally got through with an Impedimenta. She smiled and nodded at him as she did the countercharm and helped him up.

"Definitely the makings of a fighter - excellent reflexes," she said happily. Then she looked him squarely and sternly in the eye "But you let that be the last time anyone gets a spell past you. We weren't using spells that do any lasting damage. I expect to see you coming back here to visit for years to come, understand?"

Harry nodded, still breathless from the effort and exhilaration.

"There's something else I want to show you that I think no one else probably has. Neville, lend him your wand."

Neville pulled out his wand and handed it to Harry, who took it in his left hand, since his own wand was in his right.

"Now try casting a spell with Neville's wand," she said.

Harry started to trade hands with the wands, but she stopped him "No, go ahead and do it left-handed."

Harry pointed Neville's wand at a bench and levitated it. It felt very strange, both because he had very rarely ever used other than his own wand and because he was used to letting the power flow through his right arm. He held the bench up for several seconds, and then first one end then the other dropped.

"There's something else to practice," said Mrs. Longbottom. "There are lots of good reasons to learn to use both hands. Your right arm could get injured,..."

"Or deboned," said Neville with a laugh, reminding Harry of the time that happened to him in second year.

"Or it could get caught or you could be in such a tight place that you can't aim with your right. Also, you can cast spells even faster than you were if you can alternate wands. You can also use the left hand for protective spells or Disapparating while using your right for spells you need good aim for. Now give a try with that cistern there - see how fast you can heat it up."

Harry alternated wands while repeating "Thermo" as fast as he could until he was tongue-tied. Half the spells cast with his left hand missed, but still the water in the cistern was steaming by the end of the twenty seconds he had been casting spells at it. He had hit it with some thirty-odd heater spells in that period.

"Wow," said Harry, amazed.

"Alright, Harry!" said Neville.

"Never think that there is only one way to do magic, and prepare for everything. Those who would hurt you don't play by rules, and will look for any little weakness to exploit. You should consider getting yourself a second wand - you have the skill to use it, and the need as well."

In the morning during breakfast, Mrs. Longbottom told Harry "On Sundays, Neville and I visit his parents at St. Mungo's. You and Dobby are welcome to stay here if you would like or return to your relatives' house."

Harry thought about it, remembering seeing Neville's parents the previous Christmas. "Mrs. Longbottom, I don't want to intrude, but if you wouldn't mind, I'd like to come with you."

Neville spoke up "Harry, you don't have to, really"

"I know, Neville. It's just that I think it's important I keep in mind what the people I will probably have to face are capable of."

Mrs. Longbottom smiled benevolently. "Certainly you may. You're right - a fighter should know what the fight is about. And I'm afraid you have no choice but to fight."

Harry excused himself and went to the kitchen, where Dobby had taken to having his meals with the other elves. "Dobby, the Longbottoms and I are going to St. Mungo's to visit Neville's parents."

"Does Harry Potter want Dobby to come along as well?"

Harry shrugged, "As far as I'm concerned, it's up to you. A visitation with very sick people can be pretty grim."

"You will be with Mrs. Longbottom, Harry Potter?"

"Erm, well, yeah, like I said."

"Dobby has been told you will be safe when around her, and Dobby is making new friends here with Gilly and Gumbo, so if Harry Potter does not mind, Dobby will stay here."

Harry nodded. "I think that's best, Dobby. I just didn't want you to feel you were neglecting duties. I know how that upsets you."

"Not neglecting, Harry Potter. Harry Potter will be with Mrs. Longbottom, so he will be safe. Dobby's duties are attended to."

Harry returned to the small dining room (the manor house had a very large formal dining room for accommodating feasts for all those of the surrounding estate and guests) where Neville and Mrs. Longbottom were. "Dobby will stay here with your elves," he said, "I hope it won't be a problem that I don't have any more proper clothes than the jeans and shirt I have on."

"It's no problem, Harry. I don't dress up any either," said Neville.

"How will we get there? Can you Apparate us there, Mrs. Longbottom?"

She smiled, benignly, "I could, but I have given up on doing that with Neville. It makes him sick."

"Really, Neville?" said Harry, "When Dobby Apparates me, I think it feels great. It's portkeys and Floo Network that I can't take. Oh, and you can have the Knight Bus."

Neville laughed, "No, thanks on the bus, but I find the Floo and portkeys to be no problem."

Harry shook his head, "So you aren't going to take Apparation classes this year?"

Neville looked to his grandmother and then with a steely glint in his eye, looked back to Harry, "Gran says it's real useful for a fighter to be able to Apparate, and it's pretty obvious that it would be. I'll be there. If I get another chance like we had last month, I aim to be effective."

"Neville, you were amazing at the Ministry. I'm just sorry I led you guys into that."

"I guess mistakes were made, but I don't regret going. What kind of Gryffindor would I be if I didn't stand by my friends?"

Harry noticed that Mrs. Longbottom was beaming and had an uncharacteristic touch of moistness gathering around her eyes. She cleared her throat huskily, "Yes, well, St. Mungo's is allowed to issue reusable two-way portkeys to families of the chronically ill, so that they may readily travel between home and hospital. We'll be using that."

She led them both over to a drawer in the side table and pulled out a box with a shiny bedpan in it. "I think this is their idea of humor. On the count of three, then, we will each touch the bedpan. We will be arriving at the lobby. One - Two - Three!"

As a contrast to Harry's visit at Christmas, this visit to St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies had people openly greeting him and giving him thumbs-ups and other gestures of approval. At Christmas those whose behavior showed they recognized him acted as if he ought to be a patient rather than a visitor. Harry appreciated the difference, but was a bit annoyed that so many people had put so much credence in the word of the Ministry and the Daily Prophet newspaper. Harry then reminded himself that all any of these people knew about him was what they had heard from others - good or ill, true or not. For a month now he had been getting good press, so he was a hero. Who knows what the future would hold?

Harry was relieved to be under the penumbra of Mrs. Longbottom's imposing presence. They were able to sweep by those who would interrupt or stop them, and even Gilderoy Lockhart left them alone as they passed through to the rear of the ward. Nonetheless, there seemed to be people hanging about keeping an eye on him. Harry realized it could just be celebrity seekers or Order members he didn't know, but they could also be spies for Voldemort. He thought he should be careful, but he did not know anything which should not be revealed.

Harry recognized the frail, nearly vacant woman that Neville's mother had become from his Christmas visit. However he was hardly prepared for meeting Mr. Longbottom, whom he had only seen in photographs taken before Mr. Longbottom had been tortured into insanity. He had been a robust vigorous impressive man, but now he was a shell of a man, as thin as Harry when Harry had first arrived at Hogwarts and seemingly shrunken even in height. Mr. Longbottom was as gaunt as Sirius had been in the year after he had escaped Azkaban Prison.

They tried to discuss things, but the exercise seemed pointless. Mrs. Longbottom talked about events at home and in the wizarding world. She explained about Neville's OWL results, bragging on Neville profusely, at which Neville beamed, despite his parents' apparent lack of comprehension. She also introduced Harry and bragged on him, particularly for his work with the DA and helping Neville. Neville's parents nodded emptily and whistled tunelessly as she talked, and the only point Harry could see to the visit was so that they did not forget the couple confined in this facility. It worked. Harry felt a renewed feeling of revulsion and hatred for Bellatrix Lestrange, and he knew he would have to use all his Occlumency skills to put down these emotions. He had a lingering sense that even this rush of emotion was being felt by Voldemort, and this thought had him immediately working on managing his feelings.

After a bit over an hour, it was time to go. When they stood to leave, Neville's mother reached over and grabbed Harry's hand. She looked him in the eye and very briefly Harry felt an intense intelligence there which he had not previously noted. She grasped his hand in a double-handed shake, as someone would do when thanking someone vigorously. But while she was doing this, he felt a wad of waxy paper being pressed into his hand. He remembered how she had given Neville a wrapper from Drooble's gum at Christmas, and how dismissive Neville's grandmother had been. But it had nagged at him, since Neville had been saving them in the drawer Harry had seen opened, and Harry noted that it was all the same kind - Drooble's Best Blowing Gum. He immediately realized that this was intended as a secret gesture, so he palmed the wad of papers and stuffed it into his pocket, while acknowledging her handshake patronizingly. Then she turned to Neville, made a show of pulling out a wrapper, in such a way that Harry felt she was distracting from the possibility that she had given Harry anything, and gave it to him.

"Thanks, Mum," said Neville, with a tear at the corner of his eye.

"Alright, very good, Alice, dear, we'll be back in the middle of the week," said Grandmother Longbottom, and they all left.

Back at Neville's house, Dobby already had all of Harry's things packed. Neville and Harry spent a couple of hours practicing their spells before Harry had to return to Privet Drive where he could not do magic. Then they all had a lovely supper. Afterwards, as they tried to say farewells, Harry looked around at the house fondly, but then the image of its destruction and the crushed bodies of its residents, even the elves, intruded on his mind. His face took on a look of horror. He squeezed his eyes shut and put his hands over them, first covering them and then starting to dig his nails into them to try to make the vision stop. Before he could do anything, he felt a surprisingly strong grip on his wrists pulling his hands back.

"Potter! What is it, what are you seeing?" shouted Mrs. Longbottom. Harry told her, through his tears, and she continued. "Yes, Dumbledore warned me. Listen, the danger is not your fault. You aren't the cause and you aren't responsible. This is just another of the burdens you'll have to bear until the matter is over."

Hearing that, Harry relaxed and, blinking away his tears, he said "Then ... you know about the Prophecy?"

"Of course, Harry, both the Potters and the Longbottoms were told once it was determined it could apply to either of you children,." she answered.

"What prophecy?" asked Neville.

"You haven't told him?" asked Harry.

"No, and he shouldn't know all of it - it would put you both in greater danger," said Mrs. Longbottom.

"But he should know something about it - Neville, 16 years ago there was a prophecy about the birth of a child who could defeat Voldemort. From the wording, it could have been either of us, but in trying to kill me first, he was destroyed, which showed that it was me. Of course, that's where I got this accursed scar. Part of the rest of it is that neither he nor I can rest until one of us has killed the other."

Neville silently gasped, and looked sadly at Harry. "So you're not training because you might have to fight, like the rest of us - you know that you'll have to. It's life or death for you?" said Neville quietly. Harry nodded, and Neville put a supportive hand on his shoulder.

"Harry," said Mrs. Longbottom, "I am already doing all I know of to do to counter Voldemort and his supporters. If there is ever anything that we can do to assist you, it only need be asked. And you are always welcome here at Longbottom Manor." Neville nodded his agreement.

Harry looked at Neville and said "Well, a fellow can always use a friend, so keep up with that, alright?"

"You've got it," replied Neville.

With that, Dobby took Harry by the hand, and after the farewells, he Apparated himself and Harry back to Harry's bedroom at Privet Drive.

Back at his kin's house Harry took out the wrappers and spread them on the bed. They were all fairly wrinkled, but there was nothing written on them, except of course the name of the gum (no content labeling requirements in the wizard world, noted Harry - that saved the twins a lot of trouble with their products). The only oddity Harry noticed was that they all had little holes in various places around them. An occasional hole would have been no surprise, but it looked like they had all been placed on very slender spindles several times. Harry was surprised to think that the Longbottoms might even have access to needles. Then the thought occurred to him that perhaps these were holes caused by hypodermic syringes - perhaps the Longbottoms' supply of gum was being injected with a poison to kill them or at least keep them incapacitated! He did not want to raise alarms unnecessarily. He wished Hermione were available, as she seemed to know everything, and particularly with parents who were dentists, in whose office she often helped out during the summers Harry knew, she would know about the sorts of marks syringes would make. He placed the wrappers in an envelope and placed them in his trunk so he could ask her later. Then he cleared his mind of the disturbing images of the day and went to bed.