Hero


His head was bent, his chin tucked lightly against his neck while his castaneous eyes watched his feet tread. The rubber soles were old and scuffed beneath the callused balls and heels of his feet. Aged dirt that had clung dearly to the intricate grooves of rubber was scattered behind him. But it wasn’t just the dirt that left his feet.

The tiny particles that merged with the ground, soon to deteriorate into infinitesimal dust, left behind the land he stood on. The land that pressed against his feet when he walked into the clearing just last night. The land that gripped on as he moved closer to the most important battle of his life. It clung tight when he hesitated; when he questioned himself and came to an abrupt halt. Was this really how it was all supposed to end? Was he really the one who had to do it?

Would he dare turn back, consumed by his cowardice?

The earth falling behind him was under his feet when he pointed his wand, when he cried out the momentous words in a tone emitting more emotion than he had ever spoken. A million different feelings shrouded those words, a million different thoughts consuming him as he said them, watching the brilliant green light emitting from the tip of his wand. The world changed irrevocably at that moment. Yet the dirt on his shoes had not moved.

And when he stared, thunderstruck, at the body on the ground, the one that had ruined his life and the lives of so many others, still the soil stuck to the rubber supporting his tired, pulsing feet. Now as it dispersed and blended with the gravel it had landed on, it lost its meaning. It became tantamount to every other atomic thing it rested around.

The perse blue canvas that enveloped his feet reeked of grass immersed in water and an old nervous sweat that had taken over his whole body when she had inched closer to him that afternoon, her lips edging tremblingly towards his. He was terrified then, his heart had pounded swiftly, as if to the beat of a quick base drum. And when they finally touched, the skies opened and thick rain bucketed down, dousing them and their shoes in an early October shower.

As he treaded forward, slowly and patiently, the grey-black shoelaces whipped and were caught beneath his feet. The ends were frayed, the small plastic pieces containing them pulled off gradually, with a little help from his nervous fingers over time, itching for something to occupy them.

His feet were exhausted and blistered in his shoes, burning and sore with every heel to toe step. The soles of his feet had been overworked in the past few weeks from running; fighting, rescuing, and escaping had been his whole life lately. He’d always thought that feet never got enough credit for what they did. They worked all day, cramming themselves into malodorous tight spaces and standing up for him, but they weren’t pretty at all, and he hadn’t the time nor vanity to look after them.

The joints in his pale, knobby knees popped as he stepped. His legs had always been pallid and skinny, pathetic in comparison to his roommates back at Hogwarts, all athletic and toned. Yet he, the awkward, obtuse boy with transparent chicken legs, was the one who saved the world. It was inconceivable, both to him and the rest of the wizarding community, who almost thought it a joke when word got out that he was destined to conquer the man who personified evil. Such a dull boy like himself couldn’t plausibly prevail, and people actually began to miss that ridiculous fanatic who was rumored to have the power to defeat the most powerful wizard of their time.

His hands were stuffed in the pockets of his old jeans, the ones he had bought cheap back in fifth year. They didn’t fit him then, and they still didn’t now, but they stayed up with the help of that brass buckle belt he had worn since first year, since the moment he was labeled a pariah before even setting foot in Hogwarts.

But she liked him. She, the girl who was the opposite of him; beautiful, poised, and sharper than anyone he had ever met. She liked him and still did, even though he had always been inept at magic and his round face had scarcely changed since he was a preteen.

The sound of feet against ground was accompanied by the crinkling of old candy wrappers in his pockets, the kinds that seem to stay lodged in there forever, forgotten. He let the bright, cellophane-like wrapping roll between the pads of his fingers, closing his eyes as he walked, recalling the visits to St. Mungo’s that had been so bittersweet. He knew that they remembered him and they loved him, though they never could tell him. The wrappers were all they could say.

He had a fresh red scar below his left shoulder, shaped like a crescent moon. Not nearly as interesting as the one that had divided the forehead of an old friend with a lightening bolt, the mark of a hero. No, his was a thick, C-shaped wound, with no story to be told for it, except that he had a rather nasty incident with a knife-wielding lunatic six weeks back. He wasn’t a hero, in any case.

He was simply an ungainly child of eighteen who had somehow gotten tangled up in a prophecy after the real hero had perished. He was supposed to be forever a reject that people would have to wrack their brains to remember, ten years down the line. “Ah, yes,” he had imagined they would say, “I recall, he was that blundering boy who could do nothing but wrong.”

But now he was doomed to go down in history, a valiant conqueror of evil, the epitome of bravery and greatness, analogous to the likes of Dumbledore. People everywhere would believe he was the one who vanquished darkness and put the wizarding world at rest. It filled him with shame to have everyone think this; he wasn’t the subjugator of all things bad in the modern world, he was simply the one who delivered the final blow. Why would he deserve to be immortalized?

If only his legs would let him keep walking like this forever. Let him keep remembering who he had been, who he should still be, how unworthy he was of the fame and all its ramifications—the appreciation, the idolizing. And finally getting the girl. He knew that she, he would never be worthy of.

He did not foretell that he would be someone or something in life. Professor Trelawney hadn’t either, she had written him off as a fool with her prediction that he would break her precious pink teacup on the first day of class. He had always believed that fate knew what it was doing when it made him an inept chubby face in the crowd. And if he kept walking, something told him he would stay that way, the way he liked, a hero nowhere, forced to live up to nothing.

He would be Neville once more.

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A/N This one-shot was a response to timeturner's The Mundane challenge, a challenge to take an action usually described in about two sentences and, using excessive description and connections to events, write a whole fic about this single action.
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