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Confidence Issues

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~oOo~

Hogwarts castle was growing colder and draftier as the first semester of the school year wound down and winter break approached, the classrooms and corridors being particularly unbearable during the evenings. The students practicing defensive spells in the Room of Requirement that night were spared from the castle's normal chill however, as the magical room constantly adjusted its temperature so that everyone was mostly comfortable.

Mostly, because teenagers running around obliterating each other to hell and back could only be so comfortable, after all.

In the midst of all this organized chaos, Fifth Year Harry Potter calmly strode around with hands behind his back and a keen eye out for students in need. With nearly three months of DA sessions under his belt, Harry thought he was finally getting the hang of (and frankly, really really enjoying) this whole pseudo Defense Professor business. No longer did he fear a derisive sneer for daring to give advice on visualizing spell results, nor a Hipster Mustache Curse for correcting wand movements (Goddamn Dean Thomas and his creativity). As of now, in terms of teaching skill level and likability, Harry thought he was safely somewhere between Remus Lupin and Mr. Miyagi.

At least he hoped so. He probably shouldn’t get too cocky, as he only just stopped having to dodge a full on grizzly lumberjack beard a couple of days ago.

Harry shook his head to focus back on the present (had to stay sharp if he didn’t want to get a stray curse to the eye like he did during their first few sessions). Another sweeping gaze around the room saw that most everyone seemed to be on track…ah, except for Neville Longbottom, surprisingly. And wasn’t it a strange thing to say that it was actually surprising that Neville was doing unwell at casting a strong spell, when just last year the exact opposite would be said?

Well, strange to an asshat like Snape, or any of the bullies that you’d expect at a school. But not to Harry. No, he’d never really thought that Neville was dull or even incapable. Just that his shyness often overcame his ability to well…function, to put it lightly.

And boy, fucking, howdy was Harry ever right.

If there was anyone that had made progress by leaps and bounds in this club then it was Neville Longbottom. Every spell Harry explained Neville mastered on the first try, if not the first couple. The rare times Harry gave a mini quiz (he wasn’t too big on testing, being a very demonstrative and hands on kind of teacher/guerilla warfare general), 9 times out of 10 Neville got all of the answers correct. And whenever he asked a question he was rarely hesitant and his stutter was nearly nonexistence. Whatever confidence steroids Neville had juiced himself up with over the summer was working like a dream.

But beneath the feelings of pride and awe and a little bewilderment at his friend’s steady transformation from a little tadpole to a velociraptor, was a steadily simmering anger towards Hogwarts’ staff. Here these esteemed professors were, with their masteries in their craft and years of experience and what have you, pretty much writing the guy off as a hopeless case right from First Year and onward! He’d even caught Professor Trelawney rolling her eyes at Neville when he had trouble in class. Trelawney! The literal drunken hobo of Hogwarts thought she had a right to weigh in on a student’s worth. The bloody nerve!

And it wasn’t as if Harry was doing anything special either. Just a basic explanation of the work and a bit of demonstration and the formerly nervous boy was good to go! The longer he spent teaching Neville, the more Harry realized that he was just a majestic cactus, and all he needed in order to flourish was a wee spritz of water every other month. Was that so difficult a task for the teachers of the finest magical institution in Europe!? To water a fucking cactus!??!?!

“Hey guys. Everything going alright over here?” Harry said once he reached Neville’s side (who was partnered with Zacharias Smith for the night), hoping his light and friendly tone masked the murderous rage he felt inside.

“Bloody hell…We’re fine. I thought those extra eyes were supposed to help you see better, Potter,” Smith deadpanned. Ha ha ha oh that was classic Zachary alright! What an absolute delight, he was! A veritable ball of good humor…

But seriously Harry fucking hated that little fuck face.

“Er, actually,” said Neville, raising his hand. This was something he did whenever he asked Harry a question…regardless if it was necessary. Only in an alternate dimension could this not be considered adorable. “I was wondering if we could go over the Disarming Charm again? I-I’m still having some trouble with it.”

Harry staunchly ignored Smith’s muttered, “Ughhh, Again? Why did I have to be stuck with this idiot” and focused entirely on Neville. He found that as long as he didn’t acknowledge the hecklers then Neville wouldn’t withdraw in a misguided attempt to not waste Harry’s time.

He also found that this method prevented him from punching people in the trachea and getting expelled. So…two Hippogriffs with one Reducto, as they say. “Sure thing. Why don’t you give it a go first, then we’ll figure it out from there.”

“Ah-ah, ok. Right.” Neville got into position, while Smith grudgingly walked a small distance away. He raised his tightly gripped wand up to his face, the tip pointed at the ceiling. In a quick movement he brought his arm down and yelled, “Exx-pelliarmus!” A jet of white pinkish light shot out of his wand about halfway to Smith before it dissipated. After a beat, as if he were hoping the light would reappear again and his spell would be successful, Neville lowered his wand, staring at Harry with hopeless hazel eyes. Which Harry really wished he wouldn’t do because it brought to mind a thousand kicked puppies and kittens and he didn’t know what to do to make it better help.

“S-sorry – I can’t seem to get this one right. I mean, I got the other spells down I just…I don’t understand why this one’s so hard.” The “when this spell is supposed to be easy went unsaid.

But Harry had already figured out the problem. This was all Snape and Lockhart’s fault (as most things in life were), and that idiotic Dueling Club they hosted - for like - five minutes. While Snape had cast the spell fine (a frighteningly powerful manifestation, if Harry were being honest) he’d done it in such a way that was complete flashy bullshit. Which was all peachy keen if you were on Snape’s level and didn’t need to use wand movements or even speak incantations to cast your spells. But they weren’t. They were a bunch of Second Year fuckwits. Some of whom had just figured out how to tie their school ties (Harry Potter: guilty as charged). Ain’t nobody figuring shit out from Snape’s random flouncing.

As for Lockhart – he was too stupid to live. Nothing more need be said on the matter.

The results of that short lived club had farther reaching consequences than Harry or any other sane human being could have imagined. Like now, for instance, even though he’d gone over how to cast Expelliarmus properly, (over and over and over again) nearly everyone ignored him and did variations of Snape’s way, and he’d been slowly correcting everyone’s forms (and slowly losing his mind) on this spell since the DA began.

“Well you have the timing down fine,” said Harry, “it’s just your pronunciation and form that needs work. So first, it’s a straight Expelliarmus not Exx-pelliarmus. There’s no need for emphasis on any of the syllables. Do you remember why?”

“Errr…It’s because…the older you are, the less you need to worry about incantations for mid and lower level spells?” Neville said, then blinked owlishly in confusion at knowing the answer.

Harry grinned and steadfastly refused to melt at such an endearing action. “Exactly. So you could still cast successfully even if you slurred half the incantation – as long as your intent remains strong and have the basics of the wand form, you’re set.

“Now as for your form; you don’t need to hang onto your wand so tightly. You usually want to hold your wand – ”

“Like a quill not a sword,” Neville finished dutifully, bobbing his head. “Because your spells won’t work well if you’re too tense…argh! Right, of course! I already knew that one, how could I forget?”

“Don’t worry about it Nev. You’re not the only one having trouble with this one.”

“Really? You’re not just saying that because I’m…well…me?” Neville said, smiling self deprecatingly.

Harry stared at his dear friend for a moment; his friend, whose only crime in life was not understanding Hogwarts’ teaching material in like .05 seconds and being harmlessly shy. For this alone he’s ridiculed by student and teacher and family member alike, to the point where he puts himself at the butt of his own jokes!

‘Fuck this school,’ Harry thought viciously, mind spiraling in a focused whirlpool of hatred, ‘fuck these kids why am I even teaching these spineless cretins anything I should just open the gates and roll out a red carpet for Voldemort I’ll even lead him in with a sodding tap dance as long as he wipes out this waste of humanity –!’

“C’mon mate. Have I ever sugar coated anything since we started these meetings?”

It was an internal battle of epic proportions to pull himself out of the fucking serial killer level of anger he was feeling and go back to his - as Hermione liked to call it - composed/doofy demeanor. Neville’s returning grin helped a great deal, which was a little less self-hate and a lot more fond-terror now. His dorm mate was probably recalling the time Harry had asked the Room of Requirement to conjure up several dozen sprinting dummies with paintball guns that wouldn’t stop shooting students until they hit them with the three spells they had learned that night. Anyone who miscast a spell too many times was thrown bodily into a pit of Jello and had to swim their sticky slippery little selves out of it to repeat the nonsense all over again.

And look at that! Everyone had learned Reducto, Stupefy, and to acceptable degrees since then! Maybe they should play Three Spells or Die again with the Disarming Charm sometime soon.

Neville chuckled. “No, no. Definitely no sugar coating here.”

“Of course not, even the Jello was sugar free.” Harry mentally cringed at the pun. Where did that come from!? Stop being weird Potter you fuck shit! “Anyway, why don’t we give it another try then?”

More sure of himself now, Neville got back into position.

Smith, however, did not brace himself. He actually slumped a little and had his eyes on the ceiling, as if he were bored to tears and wanted everyone to know it. “If he messes up this time I’m switching partners.”

“Just stay in your position, Smith,” Harry said instead of, “I’m going to kill you slowly forever.”

But Neville didn’t let Smith’s douchery deter him. That was an attempted blow to his self confidence that would have worked on the old Neville. New Neville 5.0 merely stood up straighter – ignored the jeer as if it was only feeding his resolve to be better, like the killer plants he fed every morning in the greenhouses. This made something warm blossom in Harry’s heart, something that wasn’t quite pride, but managed to sooth some of the agitation from Smith being Smith and brought a genuinely happy smile to his face.

“Now, remember, above all the technique and form you’ve learned, you must be -

“Absolutely sure of what you want to happen.”

Harry’s happy smile couldn't stretch any further. He was so proud of his little cactus! “Got it in one, mate.” He reached up a bit and gave Neville an encouraging pat on the shoulder. Next to Ron, Neville was probably the tallest boy in their year. Or maybe that was his skewed perspective talking, as Harry was the shortest boy in the school, topping only Luna Lovegood and Professor Flitwick by an inch or two.

Was there no justice in this world? Not only was he contracted against his will to be a hero, but he couldn’t even look the part? ‘The fuck is a four-eyed, skinny, five foot nothing little bugger gonna do against Cobra Commander and Hitler’s love child!? Recite the screenplay for the Pagemaster like a little dipshit!?!?

Suddenly Neville’s face went strangely red. There wasn’t even a gentle transition. Just Neville and then cherry tomato. His eyes grew a little round as well, and he stiffened up a bit, like he’d been hit with a Full Body-Bind Curse. Oh…kaaay. That was a…odd…seizure-y kind of reaction? To a pat on the arm? Harry made to ask if he was alright, but Neville was already whipping his wand forward – like a sharp jab instead of the slow up-and-down-swipe.

“Expelliarmus!”

A bright crimson jet of light shot out of his wand and beamed Smith right in the chest. The force hit the Hufflepuff so hard he was he was sent flying backward several feet like a rag doll. At the same time Smith’s wand was pulled out of his hand and up into the air in a graceful arc. Neville caught it without missing a beat, and slipped it into the holster at his hip in one smooth motion.

Huummmm. Was it weird to be turned on by impressive displays of power? Yea, no. That was probably fine.

“I…did it?” Neville said with confusion coloring his tone, which quickly morphed into excitement as he turned to Harry. “I did it! YES! I did it! I mean…I did do it right, right?”

Harry returned Neville’s bright smile. “Yep. You are…perfect.”

“Huh?”

“I said that was perfect! The spell! You cast it…very correctly. Good job!”

Neville’s happy smile went a bit bemused, but he seemed unaware of Harry being a schmoopy prat. “Oh, ah, thanks!”

“Right so, I’m gonna go make sure Smith isn’t dead.”

“Dead!?!” Neville squawked.

“Dead, comatose – whatever. I’m sure he’s fine.”

His fellow Gryffindor looked far from reassured by his flippant comment. It probably wasn’t helping that Smith hadn’t moved in a like a good minute either. Pssh, what a drama queen. Get downed by a 50 foot fucking Basilisk, then come talk to him about your boo boo.

Nevertheless, Harry quickly jogged over to the prone Hufflepuff, as Neville’s thick eyebrows were furrowed in that way that said “I am deeply concerned and should perhaps act on this matter”. By the time he got up to him Smith was groaning and pushing himself up into a sitting position. Non sarcastic hurray.

“Alright, Smith?” Harry didn’t bother offering him a hand up. He’d tried that polite good sport song and dance with Smith before (hey! He wasn’t a complete cad. Jesus) and had been snubbed for his trouble.

“Yeah, yeah,” Smith grumbled as he pushed himself up with his hands until he was standing again.

Seeing that he had not committed any inadvertent homicides this fine eve, Neville joined the two as well. “Sorry about that. I didn’t mean to put so much power in it,” he said to Smith, smiling sheepishly.

“It’s fine, Longbottom,” Smith bit out lowly, brushing off the nonexistent dust on his trousers. “Guess even someone like you can manage a spell as long as you do it like a thousand times.”

“Heh, yeah. Can’t just give up like before. Can’t really afford to what with what’s been going on these days,” Neville said, flipping that negative into a positive like a boss.

“Hmm,” Smith grunted noncommittally. He was probably still equating Voldemort to other myths like the tooth fairy and the kindness of strangers. “Was there anything else you wanted, Potter? It’s about time to leave soon, right?”

Smith was right, it was starting to near that time where they needed to pack up and leave, lest the Inquisitional Squad catch their rebellious asses. Granted, they did have time for one quick lesson, and maybe if Smith had kept his little opinions to himself, Harry would have just saved it for their next session. But he hadn’t, and not so deep down inside Harry was a vindictive little scum bag that hated seeing his friends get hurt.

So one more lesson it would be, then. One special little lesson in humility juuuuuuust for Mr. Smith.

“Just wanted to do one more quick demo’ for everybody, then we can get out of here. That way it’ll be something to think about until our next session when we do the practical exercises.”

“Oh goody,” Smith grumbled in that ‘I’m not trying to be quiet ‘cause I’m a prick’ way of his. Oh yeah, like anyone was keeping this little hemorrhoid in the club at knife point. “Then can we leave?”

“Ye p ,” Harry said, popping the “p”. Then he continued with as much casualness as he could muster, “Wanna help me out with this one? I think you were one of the first to learn the Disarming Spell, right?”

Harry was fully aware that Smith was absolutely not the first person to learn the Disarming spell.

“Of course I was,” Smith snorted, folding his arms to his chest. “It was like the easiest one.”

“Well, you are a pretty fast learner,” Harry lied with all his heart. “So, did you want to help, then? That is, if you’re not too out of it from Neville’s spell – ”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Smith cut in curtly. “Let’s just get this over with so we can go to bed already.”

Harry side-eyed the grumpy Hufflepuff, outwardly nonchalant but inwardly astounded at how easy it was to manipulate entitled morons. No, this didn’t even deserve to be called manipulation. The giant wooden horse used by the Greeks to fool Troy was manipulation. This. This was telling a baby to look behind them while you hid behind a napkin.

Oh well. Never look a gift Horntail in the mouth, as they say. “They” being Harry. Someday he was going to write a book of muggle sayings with a few phrases lazily replaced with wizard vocabulary. Clearly it was this type of acute ambition that almost saddled Harry into Slytherin. Definitely not his thirst for vengeance. Newp .

Harry cast the Sonorous charm and told everyone to gather around. He directed Smith to take a few paces back in the normal dueling position.

“Ok, before we leave tonight, I’d like to show you another counter to the Disarming Spell.” He shucked off his robes – much to the confusion of his classmates – leaving him in his ugly too large jumper and trousers. He shook out his arms and legs and let out a puff of air, releasing any tension in his limbs so he could more easily spring into action. Very deliberately, he let his arms hang limp as noodles at his sides and gripped his wand with only the slightest of pressure, making the target as easy as possible. “Alright Smith. Hit me with the Disarming Spell whenever you’re ready.”

The sound of excited whispers erupted as his classmates come students speculated about what kind of awesome new spell Harry was going to show them this time. He spotted Hermione raising her eyebrows in question at him. She could probably tell what he was doing based on his stance and was a tad confused by it since they hadn’t really discussed when they were going to introduce this concept to the DA yet. Harry merely shrugged his shoulders at her, trying to communicate meh, there would never be a good or bad time to bring something like this up so why not now?

Hermione took one glance between him and Smith, then shot him a narrow eyed exasperated look that said she knew exactly what his conniving ass was up to.

Harry returned her look with a sheepish smile. Her precious little “morality” wasn’t going to stop him though. You mess with Neville within two feet of Harry you die.

Smith proceeded to flail about in the “Snape Defense Style” (and oooh, Harry was feeling bad about this less and less), going so slow that Harry’s hand started to twitch with the need to shoot off thirty curses. Despite the stupid ass formation, Smith performed the spell sufficiently enough. A red light shot out of his wand as expected and hit Harry hard enough in the chest to force him to totter back a few steps. Harry’s wand was summarily yanked out of his hand by an invisible rope and went flying towards Smith, where the Hufflepuff caught it with a satisfied little smirk.

Smith opened his mouth to say something, probably along the lines of “heh, need me to slow down for you Potter? Heh, heh” or some other cliché minor boss villain’s dialog, but he was never able to get the words out, because Harry had sprinted full tilt at him the very second his wand left his grasp. Smith only had time for his expression to switch from smug to abject horror before Harry rammed his shoulder into the taller boy’s stomach (causing Smith to involuntarily release both wands and hopefully no bodily fluids) and sent them both crashing to the ground hard. Barely having time to catch his breath himself, Harry quickly rolled off of his human pillow, scooped up the wand closest to him and climbed to his feet in one seamless movement.

Panting somewhat but otherwise composed, he leveled the wand (his own, what luck!) at Smith’s chest, and made little nonsensical flicks and swishes in a feigned curse attack. “So, at this point you have quite a few options here,” he continued to lecture, completely ignoring the now dumbfounded silence in the aftermath of tackling his classmate. “You could use a binding spell or stunner or hell, kick them in the face if you think you can - anything that will incapacitate your opponent so you can run away and get to safety.” Harry took his eyes off the wheezing uncooked noodle that was Smith and brought his attention to the class. Most everyone was either staring at him with wide eyes or had their mouths hanging open in shock (as expected). Ron was currently dying of laughter, nobly trying to hide his impending demise by having his back to Harry and holding his hands as tightly to his mouth as he could. Stand up friend, Ron. Hermione looked like she was trying very hard to be unimpressed, but Harry knew that if he dared to crack the slightest smile that she was going to cut this lesson off and drag him out by the hair to give him the most dignified curb stomping in the history of Hogwarts.

By pure coincidence and through no conscious decision of his own, Harry’s gaze was drawn back to Neville. He’d gone red again, and had a very strange expression on his face that Harry couldn’t quite place at all in any way shape or form. Not unpleasant but...there was the teensiest bit of familiarity to his current countenance. It niggled persistently at the back of his brain, which brought to mind Ginny Weasley and Cho Chang for some reason.

Meh. It was probably Voldemort messing with his psyche again. Control. Alt. Ignore it.

“Are there any questions?” Harry finally broke the silence.

“Erm, is...Zach ok?” Sweet, pigtailed Hannah Abott squeaked hesitantly.

“Oh he’s fine. Right Zach?”

“Fuck you, Potter.”

“See. Nothing to worry about. I mean, Hufflepuff’s are made of stronger stuff, am I right?” The Hufflepuff contingent nodded a bit hesitantly at first at his words but their mien steadily grew more positive. Hannah and Susan Bones even applauded, which caused a few others to join in as well. All the fuss over Smith’s steadfastness unfortunately distracted everyone from helping him, which Harry did not orchestrate on purpose at all. “Any other questions? No? Right, well, I’ve got one for you lot. How many of you thought that this would be the new move to defend yourself against curses?”

“Well...of course we didn’t think that!” Marietta Edgecomb scoffed when nobody made to speak or raise their hands. “We’re wizards. We’re supposed to be learning spells, not - not childish roughhousing.”

“Exactly,” Harry said sharply, which pimp slapped the defensive expression off of Edgecomb’s face and switched it with a nonplussed one. “That. That right there is the thought process that is ingrained in pureblood’s and immediately taught to halfblood’s and muggleborns - until it’s practically ingrained in them too. We’re not taught to move around - to completely utilize our environment. All magical self defense is treated like a Professional Duel; you throw a spell - you dodge or block, your opponent throws a spell - they dodge or block. And you keep going at it until someone loses their wand - then the jig is up, game over, you lose and you stop. Fighting.

“Which is a terrible disadvantage on our end...but a just as terrible disadvantage on Voldemort’s side as well.” Harry waited the few seconds for people to settle down after gasping and flinching and diving under nonexistent rocks at saying the Dark Lord’s name (a tendency of the DA that was becoming less and less frequent thankfully). At least his audience was starting to look more intrigued instead of annoyed at his little wizard faux paux now. “A majority of Voldemort’s army is made up of traditionalist purebloods and they all have the same bad habits as us. If they lose their wand there’s a real low chance that they’ll try to punch you in the face in retaliation, and if you lose yours? They definitely won’t expect to be punched or kicked in the bollocks or - ”

“Tackled back in time?” Ron finished for him, grinning like the assholeish best friend he was.

“Yep. All the way back to the Mesozoic era.” Harry paused to let everything he said sink in properly. The muggleborns seemed pretty receptive to the idea, but the poor pureblood’s looked like their entire worldview had been turned upside down and inside out. Harry couldn’t tell if this meant they would be more open to this style or reject it completely. For their sake and the sake of his continuously abused mental health, Harry hoped it was the former.

“Is this why you’ve been having us go through those ghastly obstacle courses?” asked Anthony Goldestein.

Harry thought it was quite generous of the Ravenclaw to call them “obstacle courses”, since he always affectionately thought of it as “hell on earth”. Hmm. Gonna have to up the ante next week. “Sort of. It’s partly because I wanted to get you all in the habit of moving around while casting because, as I said, we’ve all been trained to stand still while we attack (whether you’re a Death Eater or not), and since they’re waaaay ahead of us in experience and spell repertoire, we need to use every advantage we can if we want to survive.

“The other part is because you guys seem to learn spells so much faster when you are...properly motivated.”

Anyone would be bloody motivated if they were being shot at,” Dean Thomas muttered sullenly.

“Sorry Dean, I didn't quite hear you there, I've become a bit deaf what with all my lying about Voldemort you see.” Harry cupped a hand up to his ear and leaned forward. “Did you just say you would rather I have the dummies carry chain guns next time -?”

“You can’t put paintballs in chain guns - !!!”

“Or did you want them to hide around the room with sniper rifles? Speak up now lad -”

“Nope nope nope!” Dean shook his head and waved his arms furiously, suddenly coming to his senses and realizing this battle could only get worse for him. Sensible guy, Dean. Always knew when to quit. Probably the reason why Harry never had to worry about Fuhrer Umbridge jumping him with a detention. “Let’s just keep everything the same. I love our obstacle courses! Your glasses have been looking great lately, did you get a new pair?”

“Oooooooh. I thought that’s what you said. And no, these are the same glasses I’ve had for the past fourteen years of my life.”

“Well...they are looking...absolutely...spiffy for there age,” he paused nervously when Harry continued to stare at him flatly. “Please don’t add sniper rifles?”

Harry snorted, which garnered some hesitant titters from everyone else. Dean seemed to be the only one who noticed he hadn't said yes or no to his plea. “All right, it’s getting late. We’ll go over more ways to not die while we’re dueling during our next class.”

With that dismissal, his little students started to gather their bags and other paraphernalia (in the case of Hannah and Ernie Macmillan, the paraphernalia was named Zacharias Smith) they had lying around, all of them chattering excitedly/worriedly about Harry's latest insane teaching method.

Hermione didn’t wait ten seconds (he counted) before she marched up to him.

“He deserved it,” Harry said just as she was opening her mouth.

Hermione snapped her mouth shut, her teeth making a soft little click sound. She narrowed her eyes at him and crossed her arms, she and her foofy hair visibly annoyed. Eeep. “You cannot single people out in class just because you don’t like them, Harry Potter.”

“I respectfully disagree.”

He got a well deserved punch to the arm for that response.

He rubbed his wounded arm and stared at her with all his patheticness. She remained unmoved. Probably because her feelings were made of meaniness. “I did tell you I would make a horrible teacher. This is just another example amidst an infinite number of examples of how much I suck.”

“I didn’t say you were a horrible teacher,” she sighed the sigh of adults talking to children.

Ron chose that moment to come up to them and put his two sickles in. “He’s the best teacher we’ve had in ages. Case in point: throwing that little berk across the ro - Pfffftttttt AHAHAHAHAHA... ” Ron cut himself off and dissolved into laughter again. Apparently the mere thought of Smith being bulldozed by a tiny Harry was enough to reduce
him to hysterics.

Hermione pinched the bridge of her nose and sighed explosively; her signature ‘I’m so done with you stupids’ pose. This was a lot better than her ‘Why am I friends with you I could do so much better’ pose, because that was a precursor to storming off and silent treatment for a week. “How - what even started this in the first place?”

“He was being mean to Neville!” was probably just as bad a reason as This is the societally accepted alternative to exploding him.” Granted, both were equally true to his vindictive actions, but both would still result in another disapproving punch to the arm. And Harry would not be able to kill Voldemort with one arm so...lying it is then. “Yes, ok. I don’t like him. He doesn’t like me. We all know that. But the only reason I picked him was because he was the closest guy next to me. That's it. Besides, he was the one who agreed when I asked him.”

“Hmm,” Hermione unbelieved at him. “I just bet you asked him.”

“Excuse me madam,” Harry drew himself up and tried to project all of his ill begotten teaching authority. “But if you are suggesting that I used some sort of reverse psychology to get him to agree, then you would be correct and therefore already know that he deserved it for being an idiot.”

She growled. Not cute kitty meow meow growl, either. But bludgeon you with “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” growl. “Haaarrrryyyyyyy…

“Aww, lay off him Hermione. It’s not like he killed the guy or anything,” said Ron, agreeing with Harry when he was completely in the wrong like a True Best Friend. Hermione would do well to take notes. “Plus, we got the weird hand-to-hand-combat-dueling intro lesson thing out the way now. Do you know how hard it is to convince purebloods that doing kung fu is going to help them fight against other wizards? And Harry managed to get them warmed up to the idea in five minutes!”

“I do not know kung fu. Please do not tell anyone that I am teaching them kung fu.”

“That’s not the point!” Hermione shot back. Harry hoped that was not in reference to him not knowing kung fu. The last time he was fidangled into teaching something he didn’t know already he ended up burning off all his body hair and four days in the past.

Did everyone know the Anti-Gravity Mist charm now? Yes. Was it worth it? A thousand times fuck no.

“He’s in a position of power now. To let his personal feelings, whether they deserve it or not, interfere with how he treats his students is - it’s - it’s abusing his position! And how is that any better than what Umbridge is doing to us, or Professor Snape - ”

Ron gasped as if she had just pissed on a religious relic. “HER-mione! You did not just go there!”

Hermione blinked, taken-aback by the depth of Ron’s offense to such a notion. Though Harry was a bit insulted himself. Seriously, ouch Hermione. Stab a guy in the soul why don’t you? He had certainly never gone bad on Smith’s parents. Nor did he call him the stupidest stupid that ever did stupid every single DA session. He thought it, yes, but never said it to his face. That would just be rude.

“Ok,” Hermione recovered, “He’s not as bad as Snape - ”

“Damn right he’s not! How could you ever say that, Hermione!?”

“Oh honestly Ronald! It’s not like I called him Voldemort - ”

“You may as well have!”

As much as Harry would have loved to defend his honor (there were certain things you just plain didn’t call people amidst polite company; Nazi, Cunt, and Snape), he wasn’t about to let this opportunity to sneak away from his friends pass up. Harry found it was always best to make his escape when Ron and Hermione were having a lovers spat, because 1) it took hours, literally hours for them to notice he had catted out, and 2) when they finally finished arguing and found him, they were too busy complaining how wrong (insert opposing best friend name here) was that they forgot he had run off like a little bitch.

A little bitch sans a raging headache, however! Truly he had missed his calling in the House of Snakes. He would have flourished! Flourished!

He started to slowly side step away from them. Sweet freedom was imminent! That is until he noticed the Neville shaped human still occupying the room. He was near the tables at the far side of the room where everyone stored their bags. He had his back to Harry, and appeared to be scrunching up the hem of his shirt in a nervous fashion. Harry’s legs and feet made the decision to go up to Neville to see if something was wrong before his mind even registered what was going on. He walked past his friends - who wouldn’t notice a naked wrestling match between Umbridge and Lucius Malfoy with the way they were carrying on - and was about to announce his concern, when the thought that he could be what had upset Neville stopped him in his tracks.

Maybe Neville was irritated that Harry had jumped into his business. Maybe he feared that Harry had only brought unnecessary attention to his issues with Smith and felt embarrassed. For all of his desperate attempts to play at being a normal not-famous-dark-lord-killing guy, Harry’s social interaction skillz were absolute shit. The only reason why he seemed so polite and tactful all the time was because “Shut up, freak!” had been beaten into his thick little skull throughout his childhood. And when he actually did say something longer than “hullo” or “my scar hurts” it came out like “blah blah blah insult your entire family and culture by accident blah blah”.

But that’s what happens when you grow up in a cupboard, and you learn all your manners from old National Geographic magazines and Lysol cans.

Harry didn’t know where to go from here; standing awkwardly behind the object of his unintended insults. Should he apologize? Should he fuck off and wait till he was approached and then pretend nothing happened? Is that what normal teenage boys his age did? It worked with Ron last year...kinda for the most part. URGH! They did not cover this in Issue Number 45: Wild Zimbabwe!

“...It’s like he said; be sure of yourself. You can do this....no I can’t - yes I can! I can dangit!” Harry heard Neville mutter.

Be sure? Be sure of what? Was Neville...giving himself a pep talk? Why would he - no! Actually, this was eavesdropping. He should leave. Yes. Before Neville turned around, saw Harry standing there like a creeper, and freaked out.

Neville turned around and freaked out.

Even expecting this to happen, Harry did as well.

They stared at each other. By silent, mutual Gryffindor agreement, they decided to ignore the fact that they had both squeaked like tiny pandas.

“Heya, so...you’re here later than usual.” Harry only realized his words could be taken as a not so subtle prod to get the other boy to leave after he finished saying them. He chuckled a little in an attempt to diffuse that idea. Likely, he just looked awkward and crazy, because he was a stupid stupid cupboard child.

“Er, yes...I uh...actually wanted to ask you something...alone. But are they…?” He peeked a bit around Harry with eyebrows raised questioningly. Harry turned in that direction to see Hermione and Ron were still here and still arguing.

“...what do dentists have to do with anything!?!”

“I’m just saying that generally people who yank your teeth out with sharp metal objects can’t be trusted to make sound decisions!”

“ARE YOU CALLING MY PARENTS INCOMPETENT IN THEIR FIELD!?”

“NO! I’M CITING HISTORICAL EVIDENCE IN THE WIZARDING WORLD THAT TEETH PULLING IS CONSIDERED THE DARK ARTS!”

“Historical-!? HISTORICAL EVIDENCE!? YOU HAVEN’T PICKED UP A HISTORY BOOK SINCE YOU SMASHED THAT SPIDER WITH GOBLIN WARS VOLUME 2 BACK IN FIRST YEAR! SINCE WHEN DO YOU “CITE” EVIDENCE!?”

“WHEN IT COMES TO MY TEETH I AM VERY DILIGENT HERMIONE I ASSURE YOU! I NEED THEM FOR EATING…”

“Yeaaaaah. They’re probably not paying us any mind,” Harry said.

“Erm, yes. You’re probably right on that, heh heh. Ummmm…” He started to fiddle with the hem of his shirt again. Abruptly, he released the now crinkled material, snapped his hands to his sides, and straightened up. Harry couldn’t even begin to fathom what this sudden military like attention meant, so he just stood there and tried to exude an aura of gentle patience. That usually fooled people into thinking he knew what he was talking about.

“I wanted to-to - ” He cut himself off before he could stutter more and took a deep breath. “I wanted to ask if you wanted to go out on a date? With me.”

An implosive sort of silence followed the question. Static white noise buzzed in his ears, while thunder claps and dramatic orchestras and choruses played amidst “OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH I GET IT NOW” in his brain.

“Sure,” Harry said instead of - wait. No. For once his brain and mouth were on the same page. ‘Well done, Boy-Who-Lived. Go buy yourself a fucking cookie you git.’

“I mean it’s ok if you don’t want to! I completely understand! I will be totally fine with - I mean not that it matters if I’m fine it or not, it’s your choice obviously. In fact we can pretend I never said anything and just go on as we were...or you don’t have to talk to me ever again if you want because it might be too - ” Suddenly, Neville halted his rapid fire rambling. He blinked. “You said, ‘sure’?”

“Yes.”

“Oh.” He blinked again. “Sure means yes.” His lips turned up into a little smile that was somehow super happy and super genuine despite its size and just…looked...pretty damn great on him. “That means - oh. Yay!”

Harry nodded gravely. Yes, “yay” seemed appropriate for this matter.

“Wow,” Neville let out a combo relieved chuckle-sigh, “this is - this is fantastic actually! I’m really glad - I-I never thought I’d have a chance with - I didn’t even know you were gay - ”

...Wow. The balls on this mother fucker, Harry mused admiringly while Neville stared in mute WHAT HAVE I DONE. Asking someone out on its own took monumental cojones. Asking someone out who you weren’t even sure was the same sexuality as you? Who the fuck dared challenged Neville’s place in Gryffindor? Godric himself was on his knees begging for tips on how to be this brave.

Although, thinking about it now, Harry had never really given much thought into his own preferences. Was I-Don’t-Care-Because-Voldemort-Might Kill-Me-Prematurely-Sexual a thing? Maybe. He could probably shorten that into an acronym at least. Embroider that shit on his robes, even. That way the press wouldn’t have to bother making up quotes – it was right there in their face.

Further, the basis of Harry’s entire moral code stemmed from believing the opposite of everything the Dursley’s believed in, which only backfired on him occasionally (the Dursley’s believed that you should look both ways before crossing the road, for instance). And since boys liking other boys went under the same category as “magic, spaghetti strap shirts, and feeding your nephew” - that is to say, that all of these things were bad - Harry figured it was actually a good thing and thus something he could do if he felt like it.

“I. Am SO. Sorry - ”

“Stop,” Harry said, procuring his fondest smile he used for petting Hedwig and catching the snitch for the bravest cactus in Scotland. “Where do you want to go and when?”

“Well...I thought we could go during the next Hogsmead weekend - they’re having a treacle tart-butterbeer special at the Three Broomsticks. And then maybe we could come back to the Quidditch Pitch and hurl dishes and stuff with Malfoy’s face on it in the air and curse them?”

“Yes. Those are things I like,” Harry smiled brightly and said like a robot who recently learned how to interact with humanity.

“Yeaaa. I know,” Neville smiled back and said like a particularly thorough stalker.

They stared in silence, faces still as they marinated in the crawling discomfiture of their words. Slowly though, as they saw their anxiety mirrored in each other’s eyes, they began to relax and smile again.

‘This just might work,’ they both thought, ‘we’re both awkward idiots.’

End

~oOo~