Fandom: Harry Potter
Characters: Neville Longbottom, pre-Harry Potter/Hermione Granger
Warnings: Canon-Level Violence and Weasley Bashing
Word Count: 1994
Summary: Magical society has protocols by which they are bound. Luckily, Neville paid attention when they were explained.
“I don’t know what to do, Nev.” Harry was pacing in the boy’s dorm.
Neville lowered his head. Harry was usually much more reserved in these situations. Between James’ stabilizing influence and Uncle Siri’s intense yet fun demeanor, Harry had a solid upbringing that moderated this kind of behavior.
“Are you sure she’s the one, Harry?” Neville cringed as Harry spun around to stare at him with that look. “Ok, stupid question.”
Harry sighed and ran his hand through his hair. “I can’t believe she accepted his Offer. I thought…well, I don’t know what I thought.”
“You know that Weasley knew you wanted her, right?” Neville asked. Harry started to shake his head in denial, and Neville just raised one eyebrow and stared him down the way Gran did when they were up to mischief. Harry paused, and there was understanding dawning.
“He wouldn’t do this just to hurt me.” Neville raised the eyebrow higher. “Nev, I know you and Ron don’t always get along, but he’s my best friend. He wouldn’t have made a First Offer if he knew I wanted her, too.”
“Harry, you’re my brother in magic. I support you no matter what, but sometimes you’re blind. He’s been your best mate for eight years. He knows you almost as well as I do. And, he’s a jealous little twit.” Harry started to open his mouth, but Neville cut him off. “No, he’s a fair-weather friend who’s been riding on your coat-tails since he was nine years old. And, he hates being in your shadow. How many times has your father paid for the Weasleys to come with us because you wanted your friend there? How many times did he pitch a fit and make you earn back his friendship when your dad wouldn’t pay, or his father wouldn’t accept?”
Neville stood up and walked over to his trunk and continued speaking while rooting around in it. “He wants the fame and money, but he doesn’t want to work for it. You know this, I shouldn’t have to tell you. Think about it, Harry.”
Harry opened and closed his mouth a few times before he sat down and put his head in his hands.
Neville loved him, but his god-brother had a blind spot a mile wide. He blamed it on their family. When Voldemort attacked, James Potter was gravely injured by Peter Pettigrew. Lily Potter died, but her sacrifice saved Harry and turned the power back on Voldemort. Pettigrew ran in terror, but Severus Snape arrived in time to save James’ life.
Sirius Black appeared soon after and protected Harry while Snape rushed James to St Mungo’s for treatment. Neville shudders to think what might have happened if James had died that night as well. But thankfully that didn’t happen. Snape accepted the revered position of Vassal to the House of Potter and James protected him from all the Death Eater fallout.
Neville’s own parents were incapacitated by a separate attack. The rest of his family were nightmares. Everyone thought Neville was a squib, but as his godfather, Lord Potter insisted he be included in the Heir’s Presentation after his fifth birthday with Harry. Severus spotted the long-term potioning that suppressed his magic. James immediately applied for guardianship while his Gran underwent evaluation. That ended with so many members of House Longbottom in prison for attempted murder and interfering with the succession of the Heir that they broke a long-standing record in the Wizenmagot.
Gran recovered, but she waited until Neville was old enough to claim the Heir’s ring to regain custody. So, Neville grew up with a pseudo-brother, a stand-in father, and crazy, intense uncles. And, Harry gained a scary yet doting grandmother.
Neville’s hand brushed against the velvet pouch, and he pulled it out of the trunk. “Harry, he wants whatever you have, and it’s always been that way. He knows you want Hermione and he knows this is his one chance to use the protocols against you and get what you want. After Hogwarts, he will be looking for a dead-end ministry position, and you will be headed to the International University of Magic. It’s elite, it’s expensive, and he will never get an invite even if he could dream of paying for it. You will study Spell Crafting to honor your mother because it’s been your dream forever. And, you will come to realize that you don’t have anything in common with Ron, but you will try to continue being friends until his jealousy drives you away.”
“Really Nev? Why don’t you tell me what you really think?”
“I’ve had years to figure this out. So has Ron for that matter. Ron may be a prat, but he’s got a mind for strategy and don’t you forget it. He figured out he would never get what he wanted, so he’s taking what you want the only way he can.”
Neville gripped the pouch in his hand and turned to leave.
“Where are you going?” Harry was still sitting on the bed.
“The same protocols that block you, and stop everyone from speaking to her, leave me an opening…if she’s willing to take it.”
“That is something you will need to wait and see.” Neville walked out and left Harry looking miserable.
He headed down to the Great Hall. It was Saturday. Everyone would be at breakfast until the gates opened for Hogsmeade. Perfect. He needed witnesses for this. Lots and lots of witnesses.
Neville entered the Hall and saw Hermione showing off her new bracelet to several of the girls. Poor Lavender Brown looked like she was trying not to cry. And, Ron, the smug bastard, was smirking at the boys while he tucked into breakfast. The bracelet was cheap: leather, beads, and the requisite heart. Poor taste for a First Offer. Hermione deserved better.
Neville walked to Hermione’s seat but stopped two feet away as protocol demanded. He slammed his feet down in place. The sound of heels echoed in the suddenly silent Hall. When she turned to look at him with a question on her face, he bowed deeply and held the bow until she spoke.
“Neville, what are you doing?”
Neville smirked, a gentleman should always answer a lady. He stood straight and pulled out the velvet bag from his pocket. “I, Neville Franklin Longbottom, Scion of the House of Longbottom, do offer you, Hermione Jane Granger, Daughter of the Line of Granger, the status of Fosterling of the House of Longbottom. Such status to be granted with all rights, responsibilities, and honors of a blood member of my House.” He saw Ron try to surge to his feet as several of their housemates struck him with sticking and silencing charms. He was raging silently.
“Do you accept my offer?”
Hermione looked to Neville, confused. She glanced toward Ron, and her eyebrows climbed up her face. The girls and boys in the Hall were staring at her, waiting for an answer, several seemed to be trying to tell her something with their eyes. It just made most of them look a little deranged.
Hermione’s eyes drifted to the Head Table where the Professors were watching. Neville could see Professor McGonagle’s lips pursed in an expression that said you better do it or else, and Neville choked back a laugh.
Hermione drew herself to her full height and looked Neville in the eye. He crossed his fingers. Please let her understand. She held his eyes for a full minute. He started to sweat then she nodded her head once, lowered her eyes, and curtsied low. “Scion Longbottom, I accept your offer and thank you.”
Neville placed the pendant with House Longbottom’s arms over Hermione’s head then helped her stand. Then he led her to a position in front of Professor McGonagle. “As our guardian in magic while at this school, I do present to you, Professor Minerva McGonagle, Hermione of House Longbottom.”
“Well met, Miss Hermione of House Longbottom, I do greet you and acknowledge your status. And might I say, well played Scion Longbottom.”
Hermione looked between them and whispered, “Can I talk yet.”
McGonagle snorted, “As if they could stop you.”
“What’s going on?”
“Beyond being given a protected place within our society?”
“Well, yes, of course, I got that part. But why? Why now?” She looked between them, and Neville traded a look with the professor that begged her for help.
“Do you understand what that bracelet on your wrist represents, Miss Granger?”
“It was just a Valentines Day gift from Ron. It doesn’t mean anything. It was just, well thoughtful I guess.”
“No, that is what is called a First Offer. It’s the beginning of an exclusive courtship ritual whereby you dedicate yourself to a faithful relationship with the giver until which time the courtship ends in marriage.”
“With Ron? No. Why would he even think…he doesn’t even like me.” She looked between them again, and it was clear Neville would have to field this one.
“But Harry does…like you I mean.”
She stood still, unmoving, but with red building in her face. She took a deep, shaky breath. “Why didn’t anyone tell me?”
“Once you accept the Offer, no one is allowed to unless you specifically ask a question. It’s part of the Protocols.”
“And, Harry? He never said…” Hermione looked heartbroken.
“He’s not allowed. As the Heir, Harry can’t make an official move until he’s seventeen without a marriage contract. It’s why so many Nobles use the contract protocols. He can have all the fun he wants, but he can’t ask you anything until he’s of age.”
“I’ve been here years. Why hasn’t anyone explained all this?”
Professor McGonagle sighed, “We are restricted from teaching the old protocols. You either grow up learning them, or you are taught if you are given status in a House.” She looked at Neville and grimaced, “And the noble children are forbidden from speaking of it.”
Hermione looked back toward the table where Ron was fighting his way free of the spells. “Did you do this for Harry or for me?”
“I did this for me. I couldn’t live with myself if my best friend was trapped in a marriage with him. You deserve the world, Hermione. House Longbottom will see you get it no matter your relationship with Harry.”
She nodded, took a deep breath, and walked back to the table, Neville a step behind her, just as Ron was able to stand up. Taking off her bracelet, she threw it in his face. “I am not your property to control Ronald Weasley. And you are not welcome to speak to me again.”
“What? I’m not good enough for you now? Giving it away to Longbottom to get ahead? You whore!”
Neville spun and punched Ron, sending him crashing over the table. “From this moment forward, Miss Hermione of House Longbottom is off limits to you by my House, my Blood, and the bonds of Magic.”
Neville heard a single pair of clapping hands at the door and saw Harry standing there smiling. Neville raised his wand in salute and Harry nodded his head. Hermione took one last glance toward Ron before walking to the door.
“Miss Hermione of House Longbottom, may I introduce myself? I am Harry, Scion of House Potter at your service. Would you like to accompany me to Hogsmeade today?”
“Yes, Scion Potter. I would like that.”
Neville watched them leave before he started to stroll out of the Hall. He stopped at the door and turned toward the crowd that had been watching the scene. With a grin he bowed, “Miss Luna of House Lovegood, would you do me the honor of accompanying me to Hogsmeade on this glorious day?”
“I would be honored, Scion Longbottom.” Ron groaned as he started coming around. Luna shook her head, “He’s a bit overrun with knargles now. He should probably bathe more frequently. They don’t like clean hair as much.”