The Sorting Hat cried “Gryffindor” to the Great Hall but Neville quakes in his shoes under the heavy hand of night, when he enters the dungeons where Potions is held, even during the long summers under his grandmother’s watchful eye. The hallmark of the Gryffindors is bravery, and every day Neville Longbottom wonders which part of him could be considered brave.
After the mortal dread of his first year, Professor Dumbledore awarded him the points that tipped the House Cup in their favor. Courage, he said, a great deal of courage was needed to stand up to one’s friends.
Neville can turn a spell against the Boggart and defeat the fear from without, but there is no spell, he knows, that he can turn against himself to vanish fear within. He has asked.
When he was younger he hid beneath his covers frequently, gone into hiding from the uncle who thought it family duty to dangle him from his ankles out the window. There’s nothing wrong with him, the uncle said, boy just needs incentive, that’s all.
Sirius Black has gained entrance to the common room – to their very dorm room, as they slept – and it was Neville’s sheet of passwords got him in. Neville’s fears have become everyone’s province now. No one will meet his eyes.
Now Neville hides beneath his covers once more.
“Everyone h-h-hates me,” Neville divulges to Trevor, swallowing back a hiccupy sob as he burrows beneath the bolster and wonders if anyone would ever bother to find him if he made a concerted effort to disappear.
What kind of courage does it take to stand in the face of public scorn? Neville huddles over his knees and thinks of the Boggart striding from the closet, garbed in Snape’s skin and towering fury, and hiccups again. “R-Riddikulus,” he croaks, but that kind of magic can’t be used on his own fear. Not even the involuntary smile over Snape glowering from beneath the brim of his grandmother’s vulture-trimmed hat can wash away the sick feeling beneath his breastbone.
Neville thinks on the moment he woke with Ron’s scream ripping the air. Worse, when Professor McGonagall connected that night’s entry with his stolen passwords. He quivers beneath the duvet and thinks it would be easy enough never to come out.
“Is that Neville?” The voice echoes hollow in the empty dorm chamber. “Just came up to drop my books. Everyone’s going for dinner, Neville.”
Neville pokes his head out. “Great,” he says, and he is glad for the warning. If he leaves too late, finishes too late, he’ll be stuck for hours again outside the common room, leering trolls and all. It’s enough to make one want to stay shut up for the rest of term. “Thanks Harry.”
“See you downstairs, then.” The Boy Who Lived gives him a faint smile, then vanishes down the stairs .
“Yeah,” Neville says without much enthusiasm. “Yeah, see you downstairs.” He hunches beneath the bolster once more.
If he had been the Boy Who Lived, Neville thinks, he could have earned it. This fear.