The Lost Diadem
Neville – what the – how – ?”
But Neville had spotted Ron and Hermione, and with yells of delight was hugging them too. The longer Harry looked at Neville, the worse he appeared: One of his eyes was swollen yellow and purple, there were gouge marks on his face, and his general air of unkemptness suggested that he had been living rough. Nevertheless, his battered visage shone with happiness as he let go of Hermione and said again, “I knew you’d come! Kept telling Seamus it was a matter of time!”
“Neville, what’s happened to you?”
“What? This?” Neville dismissed his injuries with a shake of the head. “This is nothing, Seamus is worse. You’ll see. Shall we get going then? Oh,” he turned to Aberforth, “Ab, there might be a couple more people on the way.”
“Couple more?” repeated Aberforth ominously. “What d’you mean, a
couple more, Longbottom? There’s a curfew and a Caurwauling Charm on the whole village!”
“I know, that’s why the’ll be Apparating directly into the bar,” said Neville.
“Just send them down the passage when they get here, will you? Thanks a lot.”
Neville held out his hand to Hermione and helped her climb up onto the mantelpiece and into the tunnel, Ron followed, then Neville. Harry addressed Aberforth.
“I don’t know how to thank you. You’ve saved our lives twice.”
“Look after ’em, then,” said Aberforth gruffly. “I might not be able to save ’em a third time.”
Harry clambered up onto the mantelpiece and through the hold behind Ariana’s portrait. There were smooth stone steps on the outside: It looked as though the passageway had been there for years. Brass lamps hung from the walls and the earthy floor was worn and smooth; as they walked, their shadows rippled, fanlike, across the wall.
“How long’s this been here?” Ron asked as they set off. “It isn’t on the Marauder’s Map, is it, Harry? I thought there were only seven passages in and out of the school?”
“They sealed off all of those before the start of the year,” said Neville. “There’s no chance of getting through any of them now, not with the curses over the entrances
And Death Eaters and dementors waiting at the exits.” He started
Walking backward, beaming, drinking them in. “Never mind that stuff. . . . Is
It true? Did you break into Gringotts? Did you escape on a dragon? It’s everywhere,
Everyone’s talking about it, Teddy Boot got beaten up by Carrow for
Yelling about it in the Great Hall at dinner!”
“Yeah, it’s true,” said Harry.
Neville laughed gleefully,
“What did you do with the dragon?”
“Released it into the wild,” said Ron. “Hermione was all for keeping it as a
Pet – “
“Don’t exaggerate, Ron – “
“But what have you been doing? People have been saying you’ve just been
On the run, Harry, but I don’t think so. I think you’ve been up to something.”
“You’re right,” said Harry. “but tell us about Hogwarts, Neville, we haven’t
“It’s been. . . well, it’s not really like Hogwarts anymore,” said Neville, the
Smile fading from his face as he spoke. “Do you know about the Carrows?”
“Those two Death Eaters who teach here?”
“They do more than teach,” said Neville. “They’re in charge of all discipline.
They like punishment, the Carrows.”
“Nah, they make her look tame. The other teachers are all supposed to refer
Us the the Carrows if we do anything wrong. They don’t, though, if they can