Crayon Colored Lupines

Title: Crayon Colored Lupines
Author: ExcentrykeMuse
Pairing(s): Harry/Neville
Summary: Neville fell in love with Harry in secret during their fourth year, through secret smiles and quiet friendship.  After all this time, he can’t quite believe that Harry fell for him as well. Harry/Neville. Slash.

For: Kamerreon.  Happy Birthday!

Warnings: Sweet Lemonade. Secret Relationship.

Neville squeaked when he heard the ruckus downstairs, and instantly hid in his room, as worn and uninviting as it was.  He didn’t like this house, so dark and full of festering magic and loud people running about as they cleaned.  Neville would hear snippets of songs sometimes bandied about by the twins, reminding him of Hogwarts, but the cheerful tunes were strangely out of place in this grim and old house in London.  He took a deep breath and released it quietly, reminding himself exactly why he was here.

Sliding down the wall until he sat on the floor, Neville surveyed the room around him.  He had cleaned it himself and wouldn’t accept anyone else’s help, armed only with magical disinfectant and the Gryffindor heart the Sorting Hat claimed that he had, even though sometimes he wondered if the piece of clothing had lost its marbles sometime over the last one thousand years.  Mrs. Weasley had been insistent at first.  She had come in on the first day with her group of ginger-haired children behind her, pointing out what needed to be done, wanting to make everything perfect for Harry.

“Now, I know it’s not much,” she said, most likely to herself.  “But anything must be better than where he lives with those horrible Muggles.  What’s his favorite color again?”

Ginny had been the first to pipe up.  “Green,” she insisted and Neville had to bite his tongue, blood swelling into his mouth.  Lying down in the Hogwarts grass, Harry had whispered into his ear that dark blue was his favorite color.  It reminded him of the endless sky just as it was turning dark each night.

“No, far too Slytherin.  This house has enough of that,” Mrs. Weasley responded before flicking her wand and trying to spell the curtains some other color.  Fortunately, the fabric wouldn’t hold the enchantment.

“Nothing to be done,” he insisted.  “I’ll take care of it.  It’s my room after all,” he explained.

This was his room—his and Harry’s.  All he could do for Harry was write letters and clean this room, a small home of sorts (such as it was), and he wouldn’t let this woman he had never met before take that away from him.

When she hadn’t listened, Neville had let Ron start one of his fights with him until Mrs. Weasley was so frustrated she let him have his way.  Hermione hadn’t said anything; she’d heard it all before.  The arguments had begun after the first task when Harry wouldn’t let anyone into the Champion’s tent apart from Neville.  Ron had raged and stormed, apologizing for being dim-witted, but Harry hadn’t listened.  Hermione had stood quietly by the side then as well, her eyes welling up with tears.  She hadn’t believed Harry either when he said he hadn’t put his name in the Goblet.  She thought it had been a trick, that Harry had cleverly outsmarted the object like he had cheated death so many times.  Harry wouldn’t look at her anymore.

Still, they seemed to insist, at least away from Hogwarts, that they were still Harry’s friends.  There was no other reason, after all, for Hermione to be here.

Ginny now hung to the side as the familiar argument raged on, and stared at the smooth band of silver on his right hand.

“Where did you get it again?” she whispered one night at dinner and reached out with a trembling finger to touch it. 

He shrugged his shoulders and quickly went back to his steak and kidney pie, pulling his hand away.

“It’s not a signet ring,” she continued.

“No,” Neville agreed, but wouldn’t say anything more, his mind turning to the ring that should be on his father’s hand and that Neville refused to wear, at least until he reached his majority.

“I don’t remember you wearing it to the Yule Ball,” she pushed on, and Neville swallowed his reply.  He remembered asking Ginny and taking her, dancing with her a few times before het let her go off with others.  He hadn’t really cared, and instead snuck off into the night, his fingers intertwined with another’s slim hands.

The wallpaper was dusty and old, the sheets had seen better days, but Neville doubted the room could be any cleaner, even if he had an army of house-elves at his disposal.  Little about the house was friendly, but Neville was determined to make it as welcoming as possible.  He covered up the lone portrait in the corner of the room that mumbled to itself occasionally, and left his Herbology books open on the dresser and the small writing desk in the corner, hoping the room would look at least lived in when Harry arrived.  He’d even taken out his special box filled with candy wrappers that he’d collected over the years, displaying it proudly next to the mirror he had scrubbed clean until he saw his slightly plump reflection. 

Neville had seen his parents only once that summer before he had come here.  He’d given his mum her favorite sweets before showing her his hand, quietly explaining to her moonlit nights and stolen looks.  She smiled at him, but didn’t understand, yet it would be enough, it had to be.  There was nothing more he could do.

A picture of his parents on their wedding day had been carefully hung on the wall, James Potter among the smiling crowd, young and still at Hogwarts, his own parents standing beside him.  It was their family—his and Harry’s.

Ron had been in a few times, complaining, but Neville hadn’t really listened.  He nodded at all the right places and offered kind words that he knew Ron needed to hear, until the other boy would go away and leave well enough alone.

It was not as if he hadn’t heard it all before, especially at group dinners in the kitchen.  Neville could almost quote it from memory: Harry was Ron’s best friend and it was all just a misunderstanding (a rather long one, in Neville’s opinion, and one he doubted would be mended); it wasn’t fair that Ron had to room with his twin brothers who played pranks on him.  Neville shouldn’t get his own room for nearly a month.  It was his room first before Dumbledore had brought him.  Why was he here anyway?  Neville’s Gran wasn’t a member of the Order of the Phoenix, like his parents were (Hermione, it appeared, was an exception to the rule as her parents were Muggles).  Harry would rather talk and room with him anyway, though neither had exchanged friendly words for months.  Ron would talk to Sirius.  It was his house after all.  Sirius should make the sleeping arrangements, not his own mother.

Ginny had even come in a few times in the evenings, pottering about his things and looking at the displayed possessions.  “You’re a friend of Harry’s, right?” she tried to ask casually, and Neville swallowed nervously.

“You know I am.”

Her hands drifted across his father’s wand that was on the bedside table.  “He never was really—before this year.  He was always Ron’s friend.”

Neville had not known what to respond to that.  Ginny, it seemed, wasn’t waiting for a response. 

“He never writes, you know, not even to Sirius, his godfather.”

Sirius.  Sirius Black.

Neville gulped.  He hadn’t expected when he first arrived that Headquarters belonged to escaped convict Sirius Black, who had murdered thirteen people.  He had been absolutely struck with terror and just stood, staring at the handsome man with long hair and haunted eyes.  Mrs. Weasley had seen him stare and assured him that Black was innocent, and Harry’s godfather after all.  They were inseparable when together, according to her. 

Neville had nearly fainted when Ron and Hermione had greeted him like an old friend and started talking to him about Harry, speculating on why they hadn’t received any letters from him all summer.  Sirius Black, it seemed, hadn’t gotten many either, just quick notes that Harry was well and that hated Privet Drive.

Neville didn’t tell any of them he had a stack of letters hidden in his trunk upstairs.  Every night he’d leave his window open and Hedwig would fly in, a missive tied to her foot that she would deliver, taking a letter back with her in return.

He would stay awake with the light of an old oil lamp on the wall, reading every endearment Harry wrote to him, tracing the words with his long fingers, before folding the letter back up and hiding it with the others in a special compartment in the side of his trunk that served as a correspondence filing system.  It had never held anything before, his letters from his Gran and Great-Uncle Algie being tied loosely in disorganized stacks and kept at the bottom of his trunk, mixed up together.

One morning Hedwig had been late and had flown into the kitchen at breakfast, the strange old house-elf chasing her.  She landed on his shoulder and held out a thick letter for him to take, hooting apologetically at her delay.

Hermione insisted there must be some mistake, but Neville simply showed her the direction of the letter before leaving the room.

“Who is that again?” he heard Sirius Black ask behind him.  “Why would Harry be writing to him?”

He’d only managed to read the first few paragraphs, which were a cynical take on Romeo and Juliet, when Hermione and Ginny piled in after him.

“What does he say?” Ginny asked eagerly, trying to peer at the letter over his shoulder before he quickly closed it.  “Does he mention me at all?”

Black casually walked into the room and folded himself up on one of the few chairs.  “Well, tell us, Longbottom.”

Hermione sighed and sat down on the other bed—Harry’s bed, Neville thought to himself.  “Ginny, remember what I said last week?”

“He’s not here,” she replied.  “He’d never know unless Neville tells him.”  She looked at him imploringly with large, brown eyes.  “You won’t tell him, will you, Neville?”

Neville shrugged noncommittally. 

Hermione rolled her eyes.  “He doesn’t know what you’re talking about, Ginny.”  She glanced at Neville, sizing him up, perhaps, before continuing.  “And you need to back off if you ever want Harry to notice you.  Move on with your life, show him you’re not an adoring fan.”

Ginny bit her bottom lip worriedly and Neville slipped the letter under his pillow, leaning up against it so that neither of them could get to it, just hoping they’d leave.

Black grinned.  “James began really noticing Lily at about this age,” he comforted her. “Fancied her completely and kept asking her to Hogsmeade, though she’d always refuse.”  He picked up a pot of lavender that Neville had by the window.  As soon as Harry had begun writing him of his nightmares, Neville had started to grow it in the hopes that it would lull Harry into a somewhat restful sleep once he arrived.  “She had red hair, much like yours.  The apple may not fall far from the tree.”

Ginny blushed and Neville had to fight from rolling his eyes.  He glanced toward the mirror instead and looked at his reflection.  After spending weeks of cleaning, he’d begun to lose some weight, but his face was still round and his dull green eyes too large for his face.  She was far more attractive than he was, he knew.

“Come on, Longbottom, what does he say?”  Black reached for the letter but Neville left it under the pillow where it was safe.  Black looked offended at the action.  “He wrote an entire essay, it seems.”

“Plants,” he supplied.  “We write about different magical varieties at Hogwarts and elsewhere.”

Hermione looked at him as if she didn’t believe him.  Clearly she had no idea that Harry spent long hours of his childhood gardening for his horrible aunt.

Neville now fidgeted just at the memory, the sounds from downstairs wafting up to him, and he twirled the thin silver ring on the fourth finger of his right hand, lost in thought.

Neville had really wished his Gran had warned him about Black’s involvement in the Order, but as usual she had kept him in the dark.

It had been by chance that during his first week home from his fourth year at Hogwarts, he had come in from the Greenhouse early, holding a Fanged Geranium carefully in his hands, and happened to overhear his Gran speaking to Professor Dumbledore.

“Alice and Frank,” the professor was saying, but his Gran cut him off.

“Don’t speak their names! You have no right.”

There was a pause and a clink of china and, despite himself, Neville found himself inching closer to the open door.

“I realize, Augusta, that the last war took so much from you and Neville—please, let me finish.  Your son and daughter-in-law believed in a world without Voldemort.  They fought for it as Aurors and in the Order of Phoenix.”

“I know he’s back, Albus,” his Gran agreed quietly.  “At Neville’s insistence we’ve cancelled our subscription to the Daily Prophet.”  She sighed, sounding tired.  “I’m an old woman, Albus, and Neville’s my concern.  He’s a child—I won’t have him mixed up in all this.  He’s happy with his new greenhouse, his magical plants, and those letters he receives daily.”

Neville breathed in deeply.  He should have known his gran would find out, she seemed to know everything that happened in their home.  Sometimes he wondered if the house-elves told her or if she simply knew him too well.

At least she wasn’t reading his mail, as far as he knew.  The memories in the letters were sacred.

“Letters?” Dumbledore queried, but Gran cut him off again.

“I do not pry into your postal habits, Albus.  You should not pry into my grandson’s.  He is your student, after all.”

“Forgive me.  An old man’s curiosity.”  Neville could hear the rustling of robes.  “Augusta, your support—“

“Would do nothing.  I can do nothing, Albus,” she insisted.  “And I won’t go gallivanting with Neville to this headquarters with you.  We’re perfectly safe here.  The wards are impenetrable unless you receive a personal invitation.”

Neville shifted, careful not to let the fangs anywhere near him as the plant sputtered.

“I assume the Potter boy is there?” his Gran asked a moment later.  “Neville is quite fond of him.  Speaks of nothing else this summer, except for his plants, of course.  Ever since the first task his letters home have been full of Harry Potter—and only Harry Potter.  Maybe even sometime before that.  My brother Algie, if he could, would probably wrap the boy up and give him as a present to Neville for his birthday, if such a thing could be done.”  A rasping chuckle met Neville’s ears.

Neville blushed from his place outside the door and quickly put the plant down on a nearby coffee table, knowing that he really shouldn’t be holding it in an agitated state.  He twisted his hands, the large dragonhide gloves clumsily slipping over his fingers, his thoughts moving unbidden to the past year at Hogwarts.

It had all begun the first week of classes, Neville reminded himself, a smile quirking the corner of his lips.  It had started with a hand kindly placed on his shoulder after their first Defense Against the Dark Arts class.  The hand sliding down his arm and fingers interlaced with his as Harry pulled him away from everyone else, out onto the Hogwarts grounds where they sat together, staring at the lake, hands intertwined.

Stolen looks across classrooms that made Neville blush, although he didn’t know why.  One evening he found himself alone in the dorm and he just looked at himself in the mirror, trying to see what Harry saw, as thoughts and desires he couldn’t quite explain away flashed before his mind.  Blond hair fell into his dull green eyes.  He was shorter than any of the other boys in his year and had not quite shed his childhood plumpness.  Neville knew he was ordinary at best.  There was no reason for Harry to look at him as he did.

When Harry’s name was called from the Goblet of Fire, only Neville had waited until Harry had come back out of the antechamber and then walked him out to the Black Lake, their fingers intertwined as Neville nattered on about the Muggle children he’d seen on Halloween when he was growing up, dressed as witches and ghosts and expecting candy.  Harry smiled at him in the darkness before pulling him down onto the stony beach, his head resting on Neville’s shoulder.  I believe you, Neville whispered.  I know you didn’t put your name in.  You were with me most of today.

Harry had leaned up and kissed him.

“Yes,” Dumbledore agreed, his voice pulling Neville from his thoughts.  “I had noticed their growing friendship. Mr. Potter had a falling out with his previous best friends, Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger—”

“Granger?” Gran asked politely, her silver spoon clinking against her teacup.  “I do not recognize that name.”

Neville peaked into the room and could only see the side of Dumbledore’s aged face, but he appeared slightly flustered, his long white beard shivering.

“A Muggle-born witch in your grandson’s year, Augusta.  Very talented.”

She hummed in the back of her throat.  “I see.  I may have heard of her from Neville.  Remind me what she is like, Albus.”  Her blue eyes shone darkly, and Neville swallowed.  He knew it was best not to anger Gran when she looked at you like that.

“She’s top of her year, and has a very strong character.”  Dumbledore hesitated a moment.  “Apart from Ronald Weasley and Harry Potter, she hasn’t many friends, especially female ones.  The three are inseparable.  She is very strong in her opinions and, well, I have been told she has quite the ability to recite textbooks back to her professors.”

“The know-it-all, then.”  Gran nodded decisively.  “I believe Neville has mentioned her in not so many words, but to me she sounds like a Muggle-born who is trying to prove her worth too much.  Not the best companion for anyone.  Is she trying to secure herself a husband at her young age?”

Dumbledore stilled completely, his lips thinning to a straight line. “No, I do not believe that is the case, although both Mr. Weasley and Mr. Potter are fond of her.  Perhaps in the future.”

Neville gulped and his mouth felt thick.  He didn’t really like the idea of anyone thinking Harry might marry Hermione.

“But they fell out.”  Gran’s voice was strong and firm.

“A temporary setback, I am certain.  The three were—and most likely will be in the future—inseparable, as I said.”

Gran cleared her throat, the barest hint of dissatisfaction in the action.  “We were speaking of Neville and his friendship with Potter, I believe.”

“As I said, there was a falling out over Mr. Potter’s involvement in the Tournament, and that’s when the friendship appeared to begin.”

“Potter was raised by Muggles, I understand,” she questioned and Neville inched forward again, getting a view of her face, lined in thought as she ate a biscuit.

“His mother’s sister.”

She nodded.  “I met Lily Potter once.  A beautiful woman.  I understand he looks little like her, and instead resembles his father in looks.”

“All but his eyes.  His eyes are Lily’s.”

“Handsome, then, with a pureblood bearing.”  Her voice was stern but it was tinged with something Neville couldn’t quite understand.  “I know little of Muggles or their customs.”

Dumbledore appeared startled.  “Why the sudden interest?”

“Simply thinking of Potter and his influence on Neville, a positive one I am certain, but raised with Muggles would allow for some cultural differences, if nothing else.  There was something I read somewhere once, actually,” she began casually, too casually, Neville thought.  “About rings—plain bands worn on the fourth finger.  I cannot remember what it was in reference to, however.”

Neville grabbed at the wall and his heart skipped for a moment.  He could feel the cool band against his skin under his glove.  He never took it off, would never take it off until the day he died.  He hadn’t been certain where Harry had purchased them, or how he had as they hadn’t left school except for the occasional Hogsmeade weekend.  They were simple and plain except for the inside engraving on each.  He surreptitiously touched the ring through his gardening glove, remembering the etched words ‘Harry James Potter’ that remained hidden from curious eyes.

Dumbledore looked coolly at her over his moon-shaped glasses.  “Those are traditionally wedding bands in the Muggle world, I believe.  A husband and wife wear them when they promise in a ceremony to spend the rest of their lives together.”

“A magical bonding then, of sorts.”

He inclined his head, Neville presumed.  He could hear Dumbledore’s beard whisper against his robes.

“A lifetime commitment?”

Dumbledore shifted.  “Why do you ask?”

Gran didn’t answer.  She hummed in the back of her throat again before her stern eyes met Neville’s.  “You know better than to wear your gardening gloves in the house,” she reprimanded, and he nodded, not looking the headmaster in the eye when he turned toward them.

“Sorry, Gran.  I was just bringing in a fanged geranium.  It needs less sun for a few days.”

She stared at him, waiting for him to say his piece.

He swallowed hesitantly.  “Er—I’d like to see Harry over the summer at this Headquarters place.  I’m sure he’d like to see my—geranium. . . .” he trailed off, not thinking about his plant.

The headmaster smiled kindly at him, though his expression was tinged with worry.  “Excellent.  Perhaps you might be instrumental in healing the rift between Mr. Potter and his two friends.”

Neville shifted uncomfortably.

“Augusta?” Dumbledore inquired while his gran looked speculatively at Neville. 

She beckoned him forward and when he stood directly in front of her, indicated his right hand.  “A moment, Albus,” she said before putting up a privacy spell with a flick of her wand. 

Carefully, Neville removed his right glove and held out his hand and she inspected the ring closely. 

“You heard the conversation, I assume,” she murmured and he nodded as she continued to inspect his hand.  “I take it that Potter gave it to you?”

Neville simply looked away, and she hummed again in the back of her throat. 

“If this is what I think it is, Neville, I expect a proper bonding as soon as you both turn seventeen.  I’ll begin to make up an invitation list as soon as you give me confirmation, which I expect within the week given the number of owls you and that Potter boy exchange.” 

“Harry,” he replied quietly and she looked up at him sharply, taking in his features. 

“He’ll earn that name as soon as he properly asks for the honor of becoming a member of the Longbottom family.”  She released his hand and took down the privacy ward, which revealed Dumbledore examining the photographs on the coffee table. 

Neville quickly replaced his glove.

“Very well,” she said with a decisive nod.  “No harm’s to come to him, though, and I expect a letter once a week,” she added to her grandson.

He’d only been at Number Twelve Grimmauld Place for a few hours when he wrote Harry the demanded letter that his gran required.  Neville’s handwriting had been shaky and his words apologetic.  He waited anxiously for Hedwig to arrive that night, and quickly handed her the letter.  “It’s important, girl.  Make sure Harry reads it as soon as you get there unless he’s sleeping.  It’s about my gran,” he elaborated as the owl gave him a pensive look.  “The scary lady who shoos you before I can give you an owl treat.”

Hedwig ruffled her feathers in understanding.  She nipped at his hair affectionately and then flew out the window into the warm July air.

The reply had soon come when Neville was working alone in one of the bedrooms, scrubbing it and feeling sweat pouring down his face.

Hedwig landed on the windowsill, tapping her beak on the closed glass, and he quickly stood up to open it, water dripping from his long fingers.  “Hello, girl,” he greeted before flicking his hands dry and taking the letter from her.  “Er-all of my owl treats are in my room,” he apologized. 

She looked at him sternly.

He grinned at the owl, glad he had never truly been on her bad side.

Sitting on an old chair, he opened the letter and a warm smile came to his face as a second letter fell out into his lap, addressed to his grandmother.  He skimmed over Harry’s chicken scrawl and received all of the assurances he was secretly worried wouldn’t be given, words of love and devotion and thoughts of forever.

“A letter from Harry?” a deep voice asked and Neville quickly closed the letter, looking up to see Sirius Black leaning against the door.  He’d never been alone with the escaped convict and he swallowed nervously.

Dumbledore had put him under oath not to mention the Order of the Phoenix to Harry, once he had refused to give his word, so he hadn’t been able to do more than allude to where he was, mentioning a house in the city where he was patiently waiting for him with others, apologizing that he couldn’t say more but that he had been forced to take an oath.  He told anecdotes of the old house he visited, of cleaning spells and of his brief sojourn to St. Mungo’s with his gran.  He wished he could ask Harry about Black, but knew that he would have to wait until they were together again.

“Yes,” he responded hesitantly, further closing it up before handing the second letter to Hedwig.  “For Gran,” he instructed.  “Not a house-elf or Uncle Algie or Aunt Enid. Just Gran.”

She flew back out the window before Black could say anything.  “I thought she was Harry’s owl,” Black calmly accused and Neville nodded.

“She’s both of ours.”  He left it unsaid that they now shared everything.

“I knew your parents in the first war,” Black said, but Neville looked away.  “Frank and Alice Longbottom, right?”  When that didn’t work, Black tried again.  “I’ve never heard Harry mention you.”

“Strange,” Neville answered, remembering a night spent under the stars.  “He mentioned you to me.”

Black seemed taken aback and Neville smiled to himself.  He shifted slightly before taking a seat.  “I don’t suppose you’ll show it to me.”

“No,” he responded.  “It wasn’t written to you—and I wouldn’t do that to Harry.”

A bark-like laugh erupted from the convict and Neville had to suppress a shiver.  “At least you’re loyal, to a fault,” he murmured.  He looked at Neville, tilting his head to one side.  “What happened—between Harry and Ron and Hermione?  They won’t tell me.”

Neville hesitated, taking in a long breath before expelling it again.  “They didn’t believe him about the Goblet,” he finally admitted, not looking Black in the eyes.  “Ron became jealous and Hermione, well, I’m not sure why she didn’t believe, even when I told her Harry couldn’t have put his name in as he’d spent all of Halloween with me.”

“She’s jealous I think—of you,” Black admitted quietly, causing Neville to look up. 

He swallowed.  “Gran was afraid of that.”

Black looked confused, but Neville simply looked away again.

Neville dutifully sent his gran the prescribed letter that he would write on his small bed after dinner every Tuesday night.  His great-uncle Algie, just before he left, had given him a Mimbulus Mimbletonia, which now stood proudly on the little table between the two beds.  He smiled when he saw it and the handmade card propped up against it that Harry had sent a few days ago.

The card was just a spare bit of parchment, folded in fourths, with a sketch of lupines on it—at least Neville thought they were lupines especially considering the gift that came with it.  Harry really couldn’t draw, so it was a bit of a guess.  A bit of color was splashed on the petals from a crayon Harry must have found somewhere.  Hedwig had arrived with it on his fifteenth birthday with an old copy of a Muggle children’s book, Miss Rumphius.  It was old and battered and well-loved, and in the corner of the title page the name “Harry” was carefully written in a child’s hand. 

Neville had read it cover to cover in his bedroom that night, thinking of Harry, and smiling to himself.  It was a beautiful story of a woman who decided before she died to make the world beautiful as she had once promised her grandfather when she a small girl.  She then, in her old age, planted lupines wherever she went, bringing a small bit of beauty to her corner of the world.  Reverently, he placed the book under his pillow, knowing the gift was too precious to share with anyone else.

Neville leaned against his pillow and stared at the card, his fingers tracing the lines of ink and a private smile coming to his face. 

After the first task, Harry had led him out to one of the greenhouses at night and kissed him among the plants.  With nervous looks and fumbling hands, he undressed them until they were lying in each other’s arms and Harry whispered against his lips that, for him, Neville made the world more beautiful like an old children’s story he’d read when he was a child, and now Harry had given him his own precious storybook, one of his few possessions from his childhood.

Harry’s body had slid against Neville’s, his hands touching Neville everywhere as he smiled shyly in the moonlight, before asking Neville to make love to him as if there were no tomorrow.  There’s always a tomorrow, Neville murmured in response, kissing Harry’s lips tentatively, still unsure of himself.  At least, I hope, for us.

“Harry!” someone shrieked and within a moment, Neville was clambering to his feet and rushed out the bedroom door.  He stood at the top of the stairs and looked down as several Order members entered the house, smiles on their faces, with an exhausted looking Harry standing among them.

He knew from Harry’s letters of the nightmares, the sleepless nights, of his Muggle cousin’s taunting.  Ron and Hermione still write to me, he admitted to Neville in one.  The letters are full of nothing, telling me to just stay in the house and to lay low.  If I didn’t have you, I think I’d go mad at this place, but as it is, I managed to sneak to the local bookshop and purchased Shakespeare’s Complete Works and they keep me busy when I’m not dreaming of you.

For his birthday, Neville had sent him his own battered copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard, hoping to give Harry some of his wizarding heritage that had been denied for so long.  Harry had spent the summer reading in his room, which was fortunate as a few Muggles had been mysteriously attacked near his home earlier that week.

Ginny Weasley, who had been the one to shriek it seemed, threw herself at Harry, wrapping her arms around him as her long ginger hair fell around her.  She hugged him tightly, but he didn’t respond, his eyes instead searching through the sea of ginger heads until, looking up, his eyes met Neville’s.

A brilliant smile spread across his face and he broke away from Ginny, quickly hugging Sirius Black and making his way toward the stairs.  Ron patted him on the back, but Harry just grimaced at him, and Hermione, seeing his intent look when she stepped up to him, hung back again. 

“Harry?” Black asked and Harry turned, smiling at him. 

“Yes?”  Neville could see the affection pouring out of Harry’s eyes, and remembered a night spent under the stars that spring, when Harry pointed out the Dog Star, saying it was his favorite.  Why? Neville had asked and Harry turned to him sadly.  I wish I could tell you, Nev, he admitted, but it’s not my secret to tell.  Now he knew what Harry had meant.

“Don’t you want to greet your friends?” Black asked, worry in his tone.

Harry grimaced before raking his hand through his hair, silver glinting from his right hand, a physical memory.  Before the third task, Harry had slipped away with Neville at lunch, not looking back when Mrs. Weasley called him back.  With a hurried kiss and a faint smile, Harry removed the rings from his pocket and held them out to Neville.  A Muggle tradition, he explained.  I don’t think wizards follow it.  He held his up and the words ‘Neville Augustus Longbottom’ stood out proudly on the inside before he guided Neville’s hand as he slipped it onto Harry’s finger.  What does it mean? Neville asked in awe, his hands shaking in wonder.  Love, marriage, forever, Harry whispered back before showing him the second ring (it had his own name inscribed on the inside) and slipping it onto Neville’s ring finger.  We’re not old enough yet, of course, but there are a thousand tomorrows for me—and I don’t want to go back to Surrey without knowing you want a thousand tomorrows, too.

 “I’m trying, Sirius,” he murmured, but Black stopped him. 

“You’ve barely written to me and not at all to Ron and Hermione,” he chided, trying to understand, it appeared, or wanting confirmation of what Neville had told him earlier. 

“They’re not my friends—not anymore,” he commented, and the Weasleys began to whisper to each other, although the twins simply leaned up against the wall as if they’d known all along. 

Hermione bit her lip as sadness washed across her face. 

She should have known it would happen, Neville thought to himself.  Harry hadn’t spoken to her or Ron since the very beginning of the tournament, and a summer away wasn’t going to change that.

“Harry, dear,” Mrs. Weasley said sternly, but he only smiled thinly at her before turning away and quickly rushing up the stairs to the waiting Neville.

An impish smile, tinged with sadness, spread across his face and Neville reached out, touching his cheek gently. 

“Hey, there, it’s all right,” he murmured before enveloping Harry in a warm hug.  “You’ll sleep better tonight, I promise.”

Harry clung to him desperately before nodding into his shoulder.  “’M sorry,” he sighed.  “I’m just so tired—I can’t sleep at night.  I see it happening, again and again.”

“I know,” Neville assured him, “I know.”

He knew everyone was staring at him, but he didn’t care.  As Harry drew away, he entwined his fingers with Neville, carefully touching the ring on his hand.  “Your Gran found out, did she?”  His voice was tired, but still there was a smile in his green eyes behind his glasses.

“She already has a preliminary guest list,” Neville laughed, not caring if anyone else heard.  He knew that with Gran in charge, an announcement would soon be printed—somewhere other than the Prophet—and Harry needed to laugh.

“How many?”

“Over two hundred, last time I checked.  I don’t know who half the people are, to be honest.”

“As long as the Dursleys aren’t invited, I don’t really care,” he admitted before leaning down and kissing Neville softly.  “Hello,” he whispered against his lips and Neville just smiled back at him, his own silent greeting.

“Harry?” Black questioned from below and Harry turned slowly, his hand sneaking around Neville’s waist.

“Oh, sorry, Sirius,” he said, trying to hide a yawn behind his hand.  “I’d assumed you’d met.  My fiancé, Neville Longbottom.”  He tugged on Neville’s hand affectionately in his own.

Ginny gasped audibly and Harry looked at her in confusion. 

“No need to congratulate us all at once,” he reprimanded tiredly, his eyes trained on Black’s stunned face.

“I—Harry—“ he breathed out before quickly climbing the stairs.  “I had no idea.”

Harry pulled Neville to his chest, his head resting on Neville’s shoulder, as he continued to watch his godfather speculatively.  “You should have guessed.  I told you I was in love last Christmas,” he accused.  “And I know Neville’s been here for a month; you’ve seen me write letters to him at least twice.  We’ve already exchanged rings, Sirius.”

“I thought,” he shook his head.  “I thought when you mentioned a close friend, you meant your friend’s sister.  She’s so much like Lily—so pretty.”

Neville could hear murmuring from the bottom of the stairs and lowered his head, knowing that such words could never describe him.  Tonks looked up at him speculatively, a small smile on her lips, and Professor Lupin caught his eye, before quickly ascending the stairs as well.

“He’s not James,” he said quietly to Black, who only nodded dumbly back at him.

Lupin smiled kindly at them.  “Congratulations.  I know James and Lily would have been proud, Harry, and I’m sure your parents would be, as well,” he added to Neville, who looked up happily at him.

“But—Ginny—she—“ Black hesitated, and Lupin pulled him away.

“Harry is not James,” he repeated.  “Ginny, although a lovely girl, doesn’t matter in this situation.”

Harry smiled thinly before pulling Neville away, neither of them wanting to hear the reactions of the others.

He led Harry quietly to their room and shut the door behind them.  Soon soft lips were pressed against his and Neville sighed into the kiss, reveling in the feeling he’d been denied for over a month.  “Missed you,” Harry breathed into his mouth as a tongue swiped against his bottom lip, asking for permission to enter.  Happily, Neville complied and lost himself to gentle sensation as he quickly gained control of the kiss, showing Harry how much he was loved. 

“I can’t believe you’re here,” Harry finally breathed when he broke away, gasping quietly for air.  “How did she find out?  You never said in your letters.”

Neville grinned and held up his right hand.  “Gran saw and figured out what they were.  I think she secretly fancies the idea, though she’d never say anything.”

Harry blanched.  “Really?”

“Of course.  She thinks Hermione, though, is after you as a potential husband, so I don’t think she’ll be getting an invitation anytime soon to the Manor.”

Harry laughed quietly before his laughter turned to tears, his exhaustion and the strain of the earlier confrontation written clearly over his face.

Neville brushed the tears away and pulled Harry into a soft embrace before releasing him again, moving the furniture around so that their beds were pressed together.

“No one would tell me when you would come and I didn’t want Mrs. Weasley. . .”  He grimaced.  “That woman frightens me.”

Harry laughed again.

“Better?” he asked and Harry grinned.

“You kept it,” he murmured, touching the birthday card that was now on the small dresser near to where he was standing. 

“Of course I did,” Neville admitted, his eyes smiling.  “You made it for me.”

It was simple and understated, a few quick quill strokes and a splash of color from a child’s crayon and when Harry grinned back at him, he could see all the promise of such a quiet love shining through his eyes.

“We should have lupines in the garden,” Harry murmured as Neville pulled him down to their bed, just holding him in the half-light.  “When we’re officially married.  Blue, purple, pink, red, and white.  All the colors in our little garden away from the world and Voldemort.”

“I’d like that,” Neville whispered back, his lips gently kissing Harry as he fell off into sleep.  “I’d really like that.”

The End.

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