Unearthly Flower

Title: Unearthly Flower
Author: ExcentrykeMuse
Pairing: Harry/Neville
Summary: After Sirius’s death, Harry would go to the edge of the Forbidden Forest and Stare into the trees, with the silent presence of Neville beside him.  Harry/Neville.

Warnings: Slash, Unrequited love

It had been his third year when Harry wandered down to the edge of the Forbidden Forest, staring between the dark trees and wondering if—somehow—Sirius Black was staring back at him.  He stood there for hours as the afternoon sun began to set over the hills, poised on the edge of the black expanse, looking into nothing with nothing gazing at him in return.  Occasionally the rustle of a leaf would catch his attention, or the snap of a branch, but still he saw nothing, until two pale blue eyes emerged from the darkness, a hand clutching a small pot with a strange blue-gray flower in it.

Neither of them spoke to each other, just stared with the unearthly bloom between them, until Harry turned away, knowing he couldn’t reach out and touch the other boy’s cheek as he had always wanted to since he had first arrived at Hogwarts.  A puff of breath sounded behind him and he stilled, closing his eyes, and forced himself to move forward.  The next morning when he awoke, the strange flower was beside his bed in silent offering, and Harry wondered for the first time in years if Neville might actually love him as well.

At night Harry stayed awake, cradling the unearthly flower that somehow managed to stay alive, and he wondered when Neville took care of it, as they rarely spoke except in passing.

“Where did you get such a poncy flower?” Ron asked once when Harry stroked a single petal.  “It’s positively ghastly.”

Harry saw the hurt look in Neville’s eyes and offered a small smile in return, showing that he didn’t share his mate’s views on the gift.

The flower somehow found its way to the hospital wing at the end of the year, and Harry turned on his side to stare at it, the gray bleeding into an unnatural blue that could only come from magic.  He wondered at the flower, at what it meant, what it was called, but he never asked.  He fell asleep with a smile on his face and almost thought he felt a feather light kiss against his cheek before slumber overtook him.  When he awoke he was once again alone with Ron and Hermione, Madam Pomfrey bustling importantly around the room.  He wondered about his godfather briefly before remembering that kiss, which he told himself was nothing more than a dream.

Still, it was the sweetest he had ever dreamt, and one that he reminded himself could never happen in reality.

He knew what happened to freaks who loved other boys.  He’d heard it often enough in his childhood, heard the whispers around Hogwarts when an old pureblood family pulled their son from Hogwarts when he was caught in a broom closet snogging his childhood best friend.  It was forbidden—families could die out if sons followed the whims of love where no children could follow.

The truth quietly broke Harry’s heart.

They sat in different carriages on the way back to King’s Cross, and Harry remained quiet, the unearthly flower in his lap.  The Dursleys took it away from him as soon as he arrived back at Privet Drive, and he watched as it was tossed into a rubbish bin.  That night, he slipped out of his window, not caring that he could fall and break his neck, and crept toward where he knew his flower was, pulling it carefully out and breathing out in relief when he saw it was only slightly battered.  He kept it hidden in his closet all summer and when the Weasleys arrived to take him to the World Cup, he whispered in George’s ear where it was, knowing his friend would smuggle it with them to the Burrow.

Fourth year wasn’t quiet, and within the first week Harry held Neville in his arms as he cried, neither saying a word in the abandoned classroom.  Harry’s blood boiled with anger at Moody who had shown the three Unforgivable Curses, terrifying Neville.  He kissed away the tears, neither saying anything as they stared helplessly into each other’s eyes, knowing it was a stolen moment, one that shouldn’t be repeated—

The taste of Neville’s lips was salty from his weeping, but Harry had never tasted anything so sweet, and he pulled Neville closer, his fingers tentatively brushing Neville’s cheek as he’d always wanted. 

“I love you,” Neville whispered as he left the room, and Harry staggered against the door, his eyes filling with tears he couldn’t shed, knowing in his heart that he would always love the other boy and that it was completely hopeless. 

He barely noticed when the foreign delegations arrived, his mind still in a whirl weeks later.  Hermione had noticed his strange behavior and was watching him more closely, but he knew she wouldn’t guess.  He and Neville rarely spoke and were never alone together—there was nothing to see, nothing but a strange flower that symbolized a love that could never be.

When his name was called from the Goblet of Fire, he knew that magic was punishing him for his love—but he couldn’t help himself, and when he saw Neville meet his steady gaze without reproach, he sighed in relief.  As long as Neville believed him, that was all he ever needed to know.

Neville kissed him for luck before the First Task, and their eyes held each other in a silent gaze, and Harry knew he had to live, if only to be able to see those eyes looking at him again, full of unspoken emotion.  They kissed again, Neville more certain this time, before the Second Task.  Harry pressed Neville against a wall, his hand pressed against Neville’s hip, and he wanted to lose himself in the soft kisses, glad he had Neville, knowing that with the gift of Gillyweed earlier that month, Neville was taking care of him.  Another gift, another plant.

It was perfect.

He hated whoever had placed Ron at the bottom of the lake, seeing Neville’s hurt gaze later that night in the Common Room, and wanting to hold him, to whisper that he loved Neville as much as he loved Harry, but the words stuck in his throat as he was kept in the Common Room by well wishers.

Harry couldn’t sleep that night, instead staring at Neville’s four-poster bed, the unearthly flower held possessively to his chest.

There were no more kisses after that, no more shared looks, but Harry bit his tongue and said nothing, knowing this was for the best.  He reminded himself of the Yule Ball, how they were forced to attend with others, of watching Neville dance with little Ginny Weasley and wishing that Neville were instead in his arms and stepping on his toes as Harry really couldn’t dance at all. 

“I love you,” he whispered into his pillow one night, his eyes damp with tears.  No one heard him but the darkness.

His lips went unkissed before the Third Task, and he found himself bringing his fingers up to his mouth, trying to remember the soft, persistent pressure of Neville’s love, and finding it elusive as a ghost.  He didn’t look up to the crowd when he entered the maze, afraid he wouldn’t find Neville’s face, that he wouldn’t even care. 

He woke up in the hospital wing alone, but the unearthly flower was beside his bed and he reached out toward it, hoping it meant that Neville had forgiven him and still cared, even if they could never be together.

The summer was bleak without Neville, and Grimmauld Place became his prison as well as his sanctuary.

“You’re in love,” Sirius told him one night when they were alone, sitting before a fire.

Harry looked up at him in shock.

“I know the look,” his godfather continued.  “You look like Prongs often did before Lily gave him the time of day.  In love and helpless.  Who’s the bird?”

Opening his mouth to respond, he looked away, uncertain how to answer.

Silence fell over them and he heard Sirius get to his feet, moving about the room like a caged dog.  “Who’s the bloke?” he finally asked, his voice careful and emotionless, and Harry whipped around to see Sirius’s concerned eyes on him.  “Oh, Harry,” he murmured, and a moment later Harry was in his arms, crying for Neville and what could never be.  “If he’s a Muggle-born it doesn’t matter,” Sirius tried to sooth.  “He’ll have no line to continue and you have no one to object.”

Harry only wept harder, knowing that fate hadn’t been so kind to him.

He watched Neville throughout the year, teaching him quietly in Dumbledore’s Army, forcing himself not to caress the inside of his wrist when adjusting a wand hold or to let himself press against Neville’s back when showing him a wand movement.

Neville’s sad blue eyes rarely met his, and when Cho kissed Harry before Yule, he tried to kiss her back, knowing that he should fancy her, that she was pretty, but that she could never be what he wanted.  He ignored Neville’s betrayed look when he took Cho to Hogsmeade, and was glad when they broke up later that year.  His heart cried out for Neville and almost every night he would stroke the petals of the strange flower, knowing that Neville saw, hoping that he understood the quiet message.

After Sirius fell through the veil, it was Neville who held him, who dried his tears, who kissed away the grief from his lips.  Harry knew that they were somewhere in the Department of Mysteries, but he didn’t care.  Neville had pulled him away from the Veil, away from Bellatrix with an Unforgivable on his tongue, and held him as Harry had once held him. 

“I love you,” Harry wept a moment before Ministry officials came through the door.  The two stared at each other as they were led away through reporters who took Harry’s photograph.

No letters were exchanged that summer and when Harry was taken to the Burrow, he would sit in the orchard with the unearthly flower, hiding from Ginny who wouldn’t stop complaining about Phlegm.  He was envious of the engaged couple, of the open love shining out of their eyes, of the shared kisses and the hope of a future together.  He could never have that comfort, only memories of stolen moments and a magical plant that he knew was somehow symbolic, although he was never certain how.  

His eyes would meet Neville’s during the year over lunch or in class.  They rarely saw one another as their NEWTs didn’t match up very well.  Harry through himself into Potions, reading his book voraciously for some solution to his predicament, but finding nothing but Amortentia.  They were already in love—that wasn’t the problem.  At his darkest moments, he considered brewing it and taking it to make him fall in love with someone else, but he couldn’t do that to Neville.  He loved Neville too much to ever want to stop loving him, to leave him completely alone in his misery—and he could never poison his beloved.  He knew even if he chemically loved another, it would kill him to see Neville with someone else unless he truly wanted it.

“You should go out with her,” Neville whispered one spring day by the lake.  Harry was sitting on a rock, just staring out at the black waves, hoping to lose himself briefly in quiet instead of his festering misery.

Harry turned his head to the side to show he was listening, and gasped when familiar, callused fingertips caressed the shell of his ear.  “How can you say that?”

“She might make you happy.”

Snorting, Harry pulled away.  “She’d make me miserable.”

“Ginny wants you.  She always has,” Neville countered quietly, still standing behind Harry.  “It’s why I took her to the Yule Ball before you could think to ask her.  I didn’t want—“

Harry’s body tensed in anger.  “Then why are you trying to throw her at me now?”

There was silence for several long moments, that was finally broken when Neville skipped a rock across the smooth surface.  “She’d love you.”

“I could never love her.”

“No,” Neville agreed quietly, “but she could give you children, a family.  Our children could play together—we could—no one would suspect if—“

Harry turned and, jumping to his feet, grabbed Neville’s arms desperately.  “What are you saying?”

Neville wouldn’t meet his eyes, but Harry didn’t let go, breathing in Neville’s earthy scent desperately.  He buried his nose in Neville’s shoulder, just wanting to remain like that forever.  If he died at that moment, he would have been content.

“It’s done,” Neville whispered hoarsely.  “I know it is.  No one talks about it, but it’s done.  We could betroth our children, lie together, love each other, be together, Harry.”

“We’d belong to others,” Harry murmured brokenly.

“Only publicly.  We could have iron-tight prenups, I’ve been over it with the goblins.  We can have our wives under Unbreakable Vows.  No one would know but us.  We could be free—“

Harry closed his eyes against the tears forming in his eyes.  He grasped Neville desperately and sighed in relief when strong arms came around him.  The little boy he’d loved had grown into a strong man, his body firm and solid from hours in his greenhouse, the pudginess of youth nearly completely melted away.  “I hate her,” he finally murmured.  “I couldn’t—not with Ginny.”

“Try,” Neville pleaded.  “If it doesn’t work, then you can date and marry someone else—but I know she’d never refuse even if—even if it was a marriage in name only and you locked her so tightly legally she couldn’t breathe.”

“She looks like my mum,” Harry complained.

Neville laughed quietly against Harry’s forehead and then they were kissing, desperately, stolen moments that would have to last them months if not years.

When Dumbledore was murdered before his eyes, Harry could only think of Neville, and he ran through the castle trying to find him.  The rest of the castle congregated outside once the battle was over, but they slunk off to an abandoned classroom, warding it against intruders and then fell asleep in each other’s arms, Harry curled against Neville’s bare chest.  Kissing languidly when they awoke, Harry made love to Neville for the first time, delighting in every small gasp that fell from his lips.

“You broke up with her,” Neville whispered as Harry was dressing, kissing his bare shoulder.  “With Ginny.”

Harry stilled and then turned to his lover, kissing him gently, sucking his bottom lip decadently.  “She’s pushy.  I think she’ll turn into her mother.  Have you ever met Mr. and Mrs. Weasley?”

Neville shook his head. 

“Trust me, you don’t want me to be stuck in that kind of marriage.  I think—“ He bit his lip.

Leaning closer, Neville grabbed Harry around the waist and pulled him until he was practically sitting in his lap.  Harry gasped when their groins pressed up against each other, wanting nothing more than to make love to Neville again, but knowing that they were probably already missed.

“I think it would be better if I married someone who wasn’t a blood traitor,” he admitted.  “Someone who would understand her role.  A half-blood even might be better—I just—“

“As long as she loves you,” Neville agreed.  “You deserve as much love as possible, and if she loves you, she’ll love your children.”

“Our children,” Harry countered, his green eyes flashing. 

The wedding that summer was beautiful, and Harry couldn’t pull his mind away from Neville, his Neville.  Still there were no letters exchanged between them.  They couldn’t put anything in writing, he knew.  It was too dangerous in case it fell into the wrong hands.  Ginny kept on staring at him even his disguise, but he ignored her completely.  She had kissed him on his birthday, but he had pulled away from her, knowing that he could never marry her.  The more he thought about it, the more his mind turned to Demelza for some reason.

Hermione whisked him away from the wedding before he could get to the strange unearthly flower.

“How could you?” he demanded later.  “How could you possibly do that to me?”

She blinked at him in confusion.  “What are you talking about?”

“My flower,” he answered hotly.  “It’s all I have—and now it won’t be cared for.”

“It’s just a stupid plant,” Ron argued and Harry glared at him balefully before leaving the kitchen of Grimmauld Place. 

He curled up on the bed in Sirius’s bedroom and cried himself to sleep, wondering where Neville was, what he was doing, if he would be forgiven.  He knew the flower was important, he just didn’t know why.  Now it was at the Burrow, with Ginny of all people.  He’d seen the suspicious looks she had given it and his blood ran cold.

The months passed agonizingly slowly without the small comfort of having Neville near him.  He saw Hermione watching him closely with suspicion in her eyes, but he ignored her.  He knew he was alienating his friends, but he didn’t care.  Even after they had managed to get the locket and turned to the wilderness, it still felt like they weren’t making a difference at all.

After Ron left, Harry thought there might be some improvement, but still his heart ached for Neville.  He wondered how they could possibly be together now.  He was an undesirable under the current government, he couldn’t marry publicly, couldn’t live publicly, would always be in hiding—he would just drag anyone else down with him.  It seemed almost providential when a group of traveling wizards and goblins met up right in front of their hidden tent and Harry heard the news from Hogwarts.  His blood ran cold as he heard of the torture the students underwent—of how Neville was the ringleader.

He exchanged a dark look with Hermione, who looked back in confusion at him.

That night, without looking back, he slipped out of the tent and Apparated to Hogsmeade.  His Invisibility Cloak swirled around him as he strode purposefully toward the castle.  His wand was held tightly in his hand and, veering off to the left, he broke into Honeydukes and crawled into the tunnel through the basement. 

Hogwarts was eerily quiet, but looking at the Marauders’ Map and easily found that Neville was nowhere to be seen.  He must then be in the Room of Requirement.  It was almost too easy to get to the correct tapestry and, with the mental plea I need to save Neville, I need to save Neville, a door appeared and he slipped inside.

“Who’s there?” Ginny cried as her wand whipped out to the opening door, and Harry pulled his hood down to show his face. 

There were hammocks everywhere and several sleeping students, though clearly Ginny and someone that Harry didn’t recognize were standing guard.

“Oh, Harry,” Ginny sighed and she flung herself at Harry, but he stepped neatly to the side.

“Where’s Neville?” he demanded harshly, his eyes hard.

“Neville?” she asked, glancing behind her at a hammock.  Harry’s stomach sank when he saw Neville’s once proud frame curled in on itself, blood seeping out of the back of his shirt.  The unearthly flower was beside his hammock, looking a little worse for wear but still blooming in that strange magical color of blue-gray that defied reason.  “Why would you want—?”

He pushed past her brusquely and rushed to Neville’s side, touching his shoulder gently.  “Darling?” he whispered, leaning down and kissing a scarred cheek.

Ginny gasped but he gave her no mind when Neville turned and pale blue eyes met his.

“Harry?” he murmured and Harry leaned down to capture his chapped lips.

“I’m here,” he whispered.  “I’ve come to take you away.”  He didn’t have a plan.  All he had was a broom and gold in his pocket, but it didn’t matter.  They could easily fly across the Channel, get away into Europe, claim political asylum.  The two of them could disappear entirely—they were as good as dead in godforsaken England.

“To heaven?” Neville croaked, breaking Harry’s heart.

“Somewhere better,” Harry whispered, kissing him quietly.  “Somewhere with a future, my darling.”

The End.

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