Neville has a secret
Neville Longbottom opened one eye and looked around the room. He was lying on his bed in the Gryffindor dorm. Everyone was asleep except him. Quietly, he slipped from the bed, grabbed his robe and pulled on his slippers. He held his breath as he tiptoed from the room.
Once he was halfway down the stairs, he breathed a sigh of relief. The hard part was now over, as far as he was concerned. He made his way into the common room and out the Fat Lady's portrait. She looked at him with a scowl, but it soon turned into a smile. "Evening, Neville."
He returned her smile. "Evening, ma'am. I'll only be gone an hour or so."
She nodded. "As you wish, dear boy. I will endeavor to be awake upon your return." A yawn overtook her as she waved goodbye.
He made his way down the hall and turned the corner. Two more turns and down a flight of steps brought him to a door. He tapped his wand on the handle and muttered "Alohomora." A click alerted him that the lock had opened. He pushed the door and entered, closing and locking it behind him.
The room was cluttered, but that was how he liked it. Musical instruments were strewn across the room. With a wave of his wand, he commanded them into rows as he approached the grand piano. He sat and played an A major chord. The instruments rose and began tuning themselves.
He winced as a trombone played a particularly sour note. It quickly adjusted to the correct pitch. Standing up again, he pulled a quill and ink out with several sheets of parchment that had odd lines on them. He shuffled through the parchments and placed them on the piano. The quill and ink sat on the bench beside him.
Leaning forward, he adjusted the parchment where he could read the notes he had scribbled on it. These notes weren't words, however. They were dots or circles with lines and such on them. There were a few words on the paper, but they explained how fast or slow he was supposed to go. He slid his finger across the bars and found exactly where he wanted to start.
Taking a deep breath, he let his fingers play across the ebony and ivory keys. The "orchestra" followed along the notes the enchanted paper conducted. The tune was a raucous one, yet below it all was an orderly theme.
He turned the page to find a blank sheet. It wasn't blank for long. As he played, the notes were transcribed onto the paper. He stopped after the page was filled and went back over what was written. There were a few notes that didn't quite work, so he picked up his quill and changed them.
He continued playing and adjusting the piece until the magical timer on the wall beside the door that had started counting the moment he entered announced he had been there an hour. With a sad sigh, he put everything up and headed back to the Gryffindor dorm.
"I had the strangest dream last night," Ginny said looking at Hermione as they sat at breakfast. "I could have sworn I heard music."
Neville's fork clattered to the floor. He was sitting across from them. He knew the room he used for his music practice was below the Gryffindor girl's dorm, but he never expected the sounds to carry that far. A clean fork suddenly appeared in his hand and he kept eating.
Unfortunately, the girls had taken note of his little accident. He smiled warily at them and they huddled closer. "I've heard it before, too," Hermione whispered. "It sounds very disjointed at times, but there is a sense of order somewhere."
"Yeah, that's exactly what I heard." Ginny brushed her long red hair away from her face with her hand. "It was really good."
Neville's eyes brightened. They liked his music! That was quite a confidence booster. Especially coming from such beautiful girls as... He gulped nervously.
"Do you think it will play again tonight?" The youngest Weasley asked excitedly.
Oh yes, I will go play tonight, he thought, grinning inwardly.
Hermione shrugged. "It's very random as to when I hear it."
He wanted to tell them to listen, but didn't want to reveal his ability. He had never told anyone about his compositions, except Headmaster Dumbledore.
When the headmaster had found out about Neville sneaking out of the dorm at night to play the piano, he was excited. After that point, he was given free reign of the small music room near the Gryffindor dorm. Dumbledore had even submitted his works to several orchestras. So far, none had been recorded to his knowledge.
The girls got up and headed their separate ways. He watched them and vowed to play his best that night.
Neville awoke again in the middle of the night. His roommates were sound asleep. Being as quiet as a church mouse, he got up and headed to the music room. Tonight he was going to do his favorite thing, play jazz.
He entered and went straight to the piano. There was a slight aura of disappointment in the room when he did so. "Don't worry," he said to the room. "We'll play again soon."
His fingers danced across the keys as he played a typical one, three, five, one chordal progression in the jazz style. This was his favorite. It didn't require any thinking, really. All he had to do was have the beat in his head and let his fingers do the talking. He closed his eyes and concentrated on the music. It coursed through his veins like he'd been doing this since he was born.
If only Gran could hear me play.
He continued playing, letting time slip up on him. He didn't even hear the timer chime one hour or two. When it finally charmed the third hour, he jumped. "Oh no, I'm terribly late!" He quickly ran back to the dorm. The Fat Lady scolded him for being so late. Once inside, he groaned. Several people were already up and moving around. He slipped past them and up the stairs.
Seamus was sitting up in his bed yawning. Harry's bed was empty, but he heard water coming from the bathroom. "Where've you been, Neville?" Ron asked as he stood and stretched the kinks out.
"Uh," he stammered. Think quick, silly! "I, uh, woke up with a stomach ache. I went to see Madam Pomfrey."
Seamus rubbed his eyes. "Feeling better now?"
He nodded and shuffled over to his bed and grabbed some clean clothes to change into. Harry was exiting as he was entering the bathroom. They both muttered "morning" to each other. Neville quickly showered and washed away the anxiety he'd had since coming into the dorm.
Breakfast was quiet. Neither Ginny nor Hermione were there for some odd reason. He ate quickly and headed towards Herbology. Thankfully he had his favorite class this morning. That would be enough to keep him awake.
Hermione was already there when he arrived. She was working towards joining the medical field, so Herbology was very important. She looked a bit tired to Neville. He wondered why.
Class began. They were to correctly remove the leaves from a hellebore so the rest could be ground to use in Professor Snape's Potions classes. He started, performing the task quickly and quietly. His eyes glanced at Hermione who had already cut her finger. Professor Sprout had approached and was tutting at the girl. "Your mind is not on your work as it usually is, Miss Granger. Is there a problem?"
"I'm sorry, Professor," she replied with a sigh. "I didn't get much sleep last night."
"No excuse. But you cannot perform properly like this. You are excused." She shooed the girl from the greenhouse.
Neville wondered why Hermione had gotten little sleep. Granted, he hadn't had much either, but this was rote to him. He could probably do this while asleep. He continued on and helped Professor Sprout sort the plants before class ended.
Neville entered the Great Hall for lunch. Looking down the Gryffindor table, he noted Hermione and Ginny were leaning against the table like they were about to fall asleep. Not only that, the other girls looked the same way. Slipping into his familiar seat, he listened to their conversation.
"I can't believe I've never noticed it before," Parvati Patil said before a yawn overtook her.
Lavender nodded, her head drooping further with each nod. "It was so beautiful."
Ginny swallowed some coffee and nearly choked. "Ew, this is awful. Do you think it's just a ghost playing?"
The other girls shrugged. "Who knows," Hermione replied. "Although I wish whoever it was would play at a time when we all could get a bit more sleep." She yawned yet again.
They all nodded in agreement and finished their lunches. Neville leaned his head down towards the table, his face flushed. If he were brave like Harry, he would tell them it was he who was playing the music. But truthfully, the girls intimidated him.
Ron slid onto the bench beside him. "What's with them?" he asked.
He shrugged. "They're all tired for some reason," he answered.
The red haired boy raised a quizzical eyebrow. "Probably up late studying, stupid girls."
He laughed nervously. "Heh, yeah. That's probably it."
Dean looked up. "Mail's here."
Hundreds of owls swooped into the Great Hall. One dropped a package in front of Neville. One corner had been torn slightly. He knew exactly what it was and reached out to take it.
Ron was a bit faster. "What's this, Neville? Doesn't look like something from your Gran." He picked up the parcel and looked at the corner. "Got torn somehow. Hm, looks like parchment."
The other boy snatched it from his hands. "Because it is parchment," he huffed. Slipping it between his books to protect it, he stood. "I've got to get to class." He ran from the Hall and headed directly for his music room.
Breathing heavily, he leaned against the door as it closed. "That was close," he announced to the empty room. He took the package and sat it on the piano. Opening it, he pulled out a stack of the charmed parchment. He flopped down on the bench and pushed up the cover over the keys.
Closing his eyes, he laid his fingers lightly on the keys. He sat there for a few moments, gathering his thoughts. He needed to calm himself. Letting out a deep breath, he began to play.
Ron and Harry ran from the Great Hall with the girls close behind. Ron tried to call out to Neville. "Good job, Ron," Hermione reprimanded him. "You've upset Neville."
"I didn't mean to," the redhead voiced in his defense. "I just wanted him to know it was damaged."
Ginny stood beside one of the many paintings in the hall. "Hey, Sir Cadogan says he knows where he went."
"Good," Hermione stated. "Let's find him."
The group followed the diminutive fighter. "Aren't we heading toward the dorm?" queried Harry.
"Yeah," Ginny answered in confusion. "I thought he was going to class."
"Well, it is a class of sorts," Sir Cadogan noted. "His own class." He led them down several more halls.
"Wait a minute," the redheaded girl came to a stop. "That sounds like..."
Hermione's eyes widened. "It does. You don't think?" They looked at each other in shock.
The boys looked at each other in confusion. With a shrug, they moved on. Sir Cadogan pointed them to the door behind which was Neville. They stood outside and listened to the melody floating from the room. "You really think that's him?" Ron asked.
Harry shrugged. "That's one thing I never would have expected from Neville."
"Me either." Ron scratched his head. "He's pretty good, actually."
They stared at the door. "Should we go in?"
"Nah. Let him have his one dream." Ron turned back the way they came. "He doesn't have much that is his own."
Hermione stared at Ron in shock. "That's the most sensitive thing I've ever heard you say, Ronald Weasley."
The boy blushed as red as his hair. They headed back to the Great Hall.
Several days later, Neville sat at the table having breakfast. It was Saturday and the hall wasn't as crowded as usual. He had gotten back to his normal routine of practicing one hour a night, though he was going earlier than he had before. His roommates seemed to be getting to bed a bit earlier than normal, much to his delight. Even the girls were getting more rest.
Parvati approached him, which was very unusual. She smiled and sat beside him. "Hi, Neville."
"H-hi, P-Parvati." He stuttered when he was nervous, which was always when he was around girls.
She pursed her lips for a moment before continuing. "Um, you know I'm in the orchestra, right?" He nodded. "Well, you see, I play violin and, well, I was wondering if you would come listen to me practice my solo. I need someone to give me an honest opinion on how well I'm doing."
"Why me?" he asked, his brow furrowed in confusion.
She shrugged, her long black hair bouncing up and down as she did so. This wasn't the first time he'd noticed how pretty she was. She had an exotic beauty about her. "I value your opinion, Neville." She waved her arm down the table. "None of the others here know which end of the bow you are supposed to hold."
"And I do?" He was blushing now. How would she know he knew anything about a violin?
"We had music class together last year, remember?" She giggled lightly.
He was hooked. "Um, okay. Wh-when did you want to.."
"How about now?"
"S-sure." He stood, tripping and knocking a plate from the table. It disappeared before hitting the floor. He looked up apologetically to find the girl smiling at him. She took his hand and led him to one of the music practice rooms.
The room was already set. Her violin sat on top of a piano. There was music on the piano and a stand next to it. She picked up the violin and checked the tuning. "I'm sorry I don't have an accompanist. It may not sound that good without it."
Neville looked around for a place to sit. The only seat was the piano bench. With a shrug, he sat and faced her.
"Ready?" she asked. When he nodded, she began. Her bow traveled like lightning across the strings. She was very good, however it wasn't quite what it could be without the addition of the piano.
As if out of habit, he turned to face the keyboard. The music turned to exactly where she was in the piece. He followed the notes until he found an opportunity to join. Suddenly, it was as if the entire mood changed. Parvati seemed more relaxed. She closed her eyes as she continued. Even Neville had to admit the piano part added a lot to the music.
When they reached the end, they waited with baited breath as the last chord disappeared. Parvati lowered her violin and looked at him with admiration. "Wow. That was incredible."
He nodded in agreement, breathing heavily from the exertion of the difficult piece. He was surprised at how well he had sight read the music. "You're really good," he told her sincerely.
"I didn't know you played piano so well," she said with a knowing smile. "So, will you be my accompanist?"
He blushed. "I-I don't know."
"C'mon, please?" She begged him with those dark, almond shaped eyes of hers. "I've never sounded better."
He sat in stunned awe. He couldn't believe that Parvati Patil was asking him to be her accompanist. Sure, he could play with her in private, but in concert? "I-I don't do well in public."
She sat on the bench beside him. "Not to worry. We're going to remedy that." Leaning over, she placed a kiss on his cheek.
His blush grew deeper. Maybe he should just go for it. After all, he wasn't getting any younger.