- Harry Potter/Neville Longbottom
- Neville Longbottom Remus Lupin Severus Snape Nymphadora Tonks Harry and Hermione and Ron
- Mystery Adventure
- The Harry Potter at Hogwarts Years
Published: 01/16/2006Updated: 06/19/2006Words: 134,451Chapters: 37Hits: 105,190
- Story Summary:
- Neville's Gran breaks her hip just after his fifth year at Hogwarts, and he must spend the summer with Harry and Remus at No. 12 Grimmauld Place. He and Harry discover a hidden message in the candy wrappers Neville's mother has been giving him over the years, and they begin to uncover secrets about the past, even as they must confront dangers in the present. Along the way, Neville learns just how much he has in common with The Boy Who Lived, and how to be his own kind of hero.
Chapter 21 - Chapter 21
- Chapter Summary:
- In which Snape stays for dinner, and the boys enlist aid in retrieving Hackenbush's memories from Ron's brain.
They flooed back to Grimmauld Place, but Snape didn't leave immediately. The boys had noticed that he'd been spending more time at the house, arriving early for Order meetings or staying late. Sometimes he even stayed overnight. It annoyed Harry immensely, but he gritted his teeth and managed not to snap over it. Since Snape was not overtly hostile, they all got along in a kind of truce. Neville was just grateful that whenever Snape showed up, he and Remus disappeared into a corner of the house together and left the boys alone. Neville figured they were working on something for Dumbledore, perhaps the next phase of the development of the laboratory. He didn't care what it was, so long as it kept Snape out of his and Harry's way.
So when they returned home, Remus and Snape went off to do whatever it was they did, and Neville and Harry went upstairs to the greenhouse. Neville set Harry to water and fertilize the beds while he replanted some seedlings.
Harry held the watering can beneath the faucet, watching it fill. "That Dr. Chatterjee was rather odd, wasn't she?"
"Yeah," said Neville as he gently pulled a seedling from its pot. "But I liked her. Seems strange that she would be so good at potions, though."
Harry shut off the faucet and carried the can over to one of the beds. "I know what you mean. She's not who I would picture as Snape's favorite student."
"He sure yelled at her a lot. Makes you wonder why he yells at me so much. Maybe I'm his favorite student now."
Harry looked up, shocked, and Neville snickered. Harry mock-scowled at him. "Oh, go on. Anyway, I don't think it's anything personal. It just means he yells at *everybody.*"
"Bet he doesn't yell at Dumbledore," Neville pointed out, carefully placing the seedling in its new bed.
"No, I imagine not. Still, I could see Snape having a favorite student sooner than I could ever see anyone having him as their favorite teacher. Even if you loved potions, how could he be your favorite teacher?"
"I have no idea. Remus was my favorite teacher."
"Mine, too," Harry agreed. "I wish he'd come back to school."
"Yeah. But then I expect we'd have to call him Professor Lupin again."
"Probably." Harry set down the watering can and wandered over to where Neville was working. He fingered the labels Neville had placed in the beds, reading them aloud, "Bloodwart, henbane, nightshade...." He trailed off, looking up at Neville. "These are all ingredients in the potions your parents take."
Neville focused on pressing the soil around the seedling, not meeting Harry's gaze.
When he got no answer, Harry asked, "Why are you planting these? Are you going to try making the potions yourself?"
Neville reached for another seedling. "I can't possibly brew potions. You know that."
Neville remained silent, pulling the seedling out of the pot and placing it in the hole he'd prepared. He tucked it into the soil as if he were a parent tucking his child into bed. The comparison was so apt, he had to suppress the urge to kiss the tender leaves.
"It probably sounds stupid," he said at last, "But it's a way to sort of be close to them. It's not like I can really do anything. I don't even know if Dr. Chatterjee can help. But I just --." He sighed, unable to express his feelings.
Beside him, Harry picked up one of the seedling pots and handed it to Neville. He was standing so close, their arms touched, and he briefly pressed his shoulder against Neville's. "I understand," he said softly.
When they went downstairs for dinner, they found Snape sitting at the kitchen table, watching Remus as he stood by the stove, stirring a large pot.
"Ah, there you are!" said Remus as they entered. "I was about to send Professor Snape to call you. Dinner will be ready in a few minutes."
Snape's lip curled at the mention of his name, and Neville had no doubt that all four of them were relieved that Snape hadn't had to perform that chore.
"Would you boys mind setting the table?" Remus asked cheerfully. "No Cauldron Noodles tonight. Mrs. Weasley stopped by with some groceries. It seems Professor Snape told her we were in immanent danger of malnutrition. He doesn't believe I can cook, so I offered to make dinner tonight."
With a sneer, Snape said, "Fortunately I stock the medical potions in this house myself, so none of us should suffer any permanent ill effects if your...experiment is a failure."
"It's not an experiment," Lupin returned, stirring at the bubbling pot. "I've been cooking for myself for years."
"Yes, but everyone knows that werewolves have stomachs of iron. You could probably eat anything and be none the worse for it. Ordinary humans, however, have more specific nutritional requirements --."
"Yes, yes, I know," dismissed Remus. "My stew is perfectly edible, I assure you. And if it's not, I promise to eat a shoe for your amusement."
With a sharp clatter, Harry set the plates down on the table. He was scowling at Snape's barbs, but after seeing how Snape bickered with Dr. Chatterjee, Neville viewed the potions master in a different light. Remus didn't appear to take insult, so Neville figured he shouldn't, either.
When the table was set, Remus ladled the stew into bowls, and they all sat down to eat. Harry no sooner put a spoonful into his mouth before he exclaimed, "This is the best stew I've ever tasted!"
Neville snickered, and Remus smirked. "Why, thank you, Harry. But does it meet with our potions master's approval?"
Snape took a small bite, rolling it in his mouth as if he were a wine-taster. "It will do," he pronounced. "Though it is awfully bland. You ought to add some seasonings."
"There are herbs in my greenhouse you can use," Neville offered.
Remus beamed. "There you are! You see, Severus? We won't starve, and I won't murder the boys with my cooking."
"I've got sage," Neville said, ticking herbs off on his fingers, "and rosemary and oregano --."
"Are you growing any scullcap?" Snape interrupted.
Neville blinked in surprise. "For cooking?"
"Of course not. But scullcap is very useful to have on hand."
"Yes, I've got some."
"What variety? American or Chinese?"
Snape frowned. "Chinese is far superior."
"Professor Sprout says so, too," Neville hastily agreed, "but it's not available this time of year."
Snape returned to his stew. "I'll bring a cutting from her store next time I come."
"Really? Thank you, Professor!"
"It's not for *you*, Longbottom. But if you're going to have a greenhouse here, it ought to be of practical value and not merely for flavoring Lupin's mediocre cooking."
"Of course, sir!" babbled Neville, forgetting himself in his excitement over the prospect of cuttings from Professor Sprout. "Maybe you should take a look and see what we have growing. Just let me know whatever you want us to add."
Snape seemed taken aback by Neville's offer. He scowled sharply before at last relenting. "Perhaps I'll do that."
The rest of the meal passed in somewhat testy banter, but it was not as unpleasant as one would expect from a meal with Professor Snape. The potions master left as soon as he'd finished, and as they were piling the dishes in the sink, Remus said, "I almost forgot, Harry. Mrs. Weasley brought a letter for you from Ron. It's on the window ledge." Harry seized the letter eagerly, and Remus urged, "Go on and read it. I'll get the dishes."
"Thanks, Remus! I'll cook tomorrow. I cook all the time for the Dursleys."
"That sounds wonderful."
Neville hesitated, not sure if he should go or stay, but Harry called out to him. "Come on!"
They left the kitchen and dashed up the stairs to Harry's room. Harry leaped onto the bed and tore the envelope open. "I bet he's got news about Hackenbush! He's been working with Hermione to learn something important about Hackenbush's brain."
"Oh, I'd forgotten about that." Neville climbed up onto the bed, resting his back against the bedpost. He watched Harry's face as he scanned through the letter, his expression growing increasingly sour.
When he got to the end of the letter, Harry looked up and sighed. "He says Hermione could never recover anything, and now she's gone on holiday with her parents. He tried with the twins next, but all they did was give him a headache or else put him to sleep."
"What are they trying to do?"
"They have to put him into some kind of hypnotic trance, but it's really complicated. He suggests we ask Remus."
"Do you think he would do it?"
Harry shrugged. "The worst he can do is say no, right?"
They headed back downstairs and found Remus reading in the library. He looked up at their entrance and smiled. "Looking for a game of cards?" he asked, setting down his book.
"No," Harry began. He turned to Neville, taking his elbow and pushing him forward. "You tell him."
Neville blushed as Remus looked back and forth between them, a hint of concern in his eyes.
"It's just, um." Neville poked at a worn spot on the carpet with the toe of his shoe. "It's only - you know how I've been reading my parents' medical files?"
"Of course," said Remus.
"And there's this Dr. Driftwood who works with them. Only Hermione found out he used to be a student of Dr. Hackenbush. And *he* used to do experiments on werewolves."
"Cruciatus," Harry added, as Remus's eyes widened.
"And he went to Azkaban," Neville continued, "but Driftwood didn't. And now he treats my parents, only my mum gave me a candy wrapper with Driftwood's name scratched off. That's how this all started, really. And remember how at the Ministry Ron fell into that tank full of brains? Well, one of them was Hackenbush's, and Ron thought maybe you could help get the memories out." Neville paused, mentally reviewing the facts to see if he'd left anything out.
Remus sat in his chair, blinking up at Neville and Harry. "Ah," he said at last.
"So...would you?" Neville asked.
"Um." Remus frowned. "I'm afraid you've lost me."
So Harry repeated the story in a bit more detail, especially with regard to how to get the mad scientist's memories out of Ron's cranium. With Harry explaining things, Neville retreated to his preferred task of nodding earnestly at everything Harry said. He was much better in a supporting role.
This time when Harry finished, Remus looked less baffled. On the other hand, he didn't leap to his feet, ready for action, either. Instead, he sat in his chair, rubbing the back of his neck as he contemplated the matter. When his silence wore on, Neville prompted, "So can you do it?"
Remus looked up at him, his expression clouded. "That kind of mental magic is very delicate. Fred and George don't have that level of skill. You should tell Ron to stop at once, or he could be seriously harmed."
Neville exchanged an anxious look with Harry, who said, "But can *you* do it?"
Remus hesitated, not meeting their gaze. "I have some experience with that type of spell. For many years I worked with Dark Creature control. Sometimes I had to retrieve memories from people who had been traumatized by their encounters with ghouls or vampires or...werewolves. The spell involved recovering memories that had been suppressed. It's similar to what you're asking."
"So you *can* do it!" Harry exclaimed.
But Remus didn't look pleased to admit it. "Probably. But I'm not sure it should be attempted. You're talking about retrieving memories that aren't Ron's. Interloper memories can be quite tenacious. That's why this kind of extraction should only be done by trained professionals. The memories won't want to leave his brain."
Neville and Harry pondered this.
"But you don't have to remove the memories," Harry pointed out. "Besides, if we removed them entirely, the Ministry would wonder what had happened to them. All we want is to know what Hackenbush knew. Could you do that, just read the memories?"
Remus looked from Harry to Neville and back again. "Ron's parents don't know about this, do they?"
"Oh, come on, Remus!" Harry sighed, impatience getting the better of him. "You're not a teacher any more! There's nothing wrong with what we're doing; it's to help Neville's parents. And with you doing it, it will be perfectly safe. Anyway, when you were our age, you didn't care about rules."
A smile crept over Remus's face. "It's almost frightening how much you sound like James, sometimes. And when could I ever say no to James?"
Harry beamed. "So you'll do it?"
"I will," said Remus. "But if I sense any problems, or there are any signs that Ron might be harmed, I'm going to stop. And I'll insist that you give up on attempting it."
"Agreed," both boys answered.
They followed Remus to the kitchen, where he called the Weasleys through the floo to ask if they could visit the next day. Mrs. Weasley cheerfully agreed. With the matter settled, Remus turned to Harry and Neville. "You boys might want to turn in, then. We had a big day today, and it looks like tomorrow will be another one."
They exchanged "good nights," and the boys took their leave. Upstairs, Harry followed Neville into his room. What with all the drama of the last few days, they had been sleeping separately. Neville kept his back to Harry as he changed into his pajamas so Harry wouldn't see the goofy smile on his face.
When they had both changed, and all the lights were extinguished except for one lone candle, they crawled into bed. Harry stretched out his arms and legs, taking up more than his fair share of the bed. "I think we're going to have a breakthrough on your parents' case any day now," Harry said, "with that Dr. Chatterjee working on it, and especially with Remus helping." He rolled onto his side, propping his head up on his hand. "It's better to have Remus helping instead of Snape, anyway."
Neville didn't want to argue. He'd rather watch the way the candlelight cast warm shadows across Harry's face. "This has been the best summer holiday ever," he said.
The shadows on Harry's face deepened as he frowned. "My summer holidays have always been horrible, stuck in Privet Drive with the Dursleys for weeks on end. But last year I stayed here, at least for part of the summer. It was great, loads of people everywhere, and all the Weasleys and Hermione. And Sirius."
Harry trailed off, and Neville tried not to feel hurt. Of course Harry would have had a better time last year, surrounded by all his friends. "Sure you'd miss all of them," he said.
Harry picked at the hem of his pillowcase. "Yeah. But with Sirius gone, maybe it's better with just you and Remus here. I mean, Ron and Hermione still have their families. They don't know what it's like. And with them being so chummy this summer...." He sighed, and they were close enough that Neville could feel Harry's breath stirring his hair. "Why do things have to change?"
Neville watched Harry's wrist lying on the pillow, sticking out from the sleeve of his pajamas. "I'm glad things change. I didn't like the way they were before."
"For your sake, I'm glad they're changing. Your parents will get better, Neville. I know it."
Harry's assurance warmed him, prompting him to say things that were better left unsaid. "That's not all I meant. I've never spent a summer with friends, away from my family. It's been fun."
The hand on the pillow slid a bit in his direction. "Yeah. And I'm glad you're here. If it was just Remus and me, it would've been kind of tough, what with Sirius and all. But it's nice having you here."
Neville kept his gaze on the hand, the fingers splayed against the pillow, dirt under the nails from the greenhouse. He wanted to kiss those fingers, press against Harry's body, but the words they'd been speaking made it too intimate. It would be better if they just lay here talking. He didn't want them to ever stop talking like this. He tried to think of something to say, but he wasn't really good at making conversation. The topics that popped into his head were too frank and personal, things like, "Are you jealous of Ron and Hermione?" and "Can I be your boyfriend?" Discarding those, he was left with inanities like, "So do you think the Chudley Cannons will do better this year?"
"Three bachelor flatmates," Harry was saying. "It's kind of nice."
"What?" asked Neville. He hadn't been paying attention.
"Remember when we were in the labyrinth? And we talked about sharing a flat when we grew up? This is what it could be like. Only without Snape visiting."
"Oh, right," said Neville, regaining his equilibrium. "But no Snape." He imagined Harry's hand sliding across the open expanse of pillow toward him. He imagined Harry's little finger brushing against his own, the warm friction of skin on skin.
"It'll be strange going back to school, won't it?" Harry was saying. He shifted slightly, his knee drawing up beneath the covers. "I mean, after everything that's happened."
"Yeah." Neville rested his cheek on his arm, his eyes half closed so that he couldn't really see Harry's face, just his hand lying on the pillow. He concentrated on feeling the combined heat of their bodies underneath the blanket.
"I mean, with what happened at the Ministry, and this summer," continued Harry. "Are you falling asleep?"
Neville shifted onto his back, but scooting closer to Harry, his cheek resting on Harry's pillow, mere inches from his hand. "No." He looked up into Harry's face, shadowed by candlelight.
Harry frowned, catching his lower lip between his teeth. "You're not tired, are you?"
"No. We can talk some more if you want. Or whatever." He lay still, forcing himself not to move closer, not to say or do anything. It was enough to lie here next to Harry, to share this time with him. All too soon they'd be back in school with a dorm full of boys who wanked together while talking about girls. It was easy enough for Neville to be content. He was used to not having very high expectations.
Harry lay next to him, head propped on his hand, staring down at him. "Neville," he began.
Neville waited, but Harry didn't go on. "What?"
The fingers curled against the pillow next to him. "Nothing.
Again Neville waited, but Harry remained silent. Silent, but studying him.
Harry didn't meet Neville's gaze, but he was looking at him, somewhere in the vicinity of his neck. Perhaps he was staring at the hollow of Neville's throat, the place where Neville liked to look, at the V of his pajama top. It was absurd to think of Harry looking at him that way. He wasn't much to look at. But Harry was staring at him, and his eyes didn't have that far-off distant look people got when they were daydreaming.
The minutes slid by, disappearing into one another, and Neville settled into their passing, like floating on the water in the sun, no tension or worry, just relaxed and present. He didn't fret about Harry speaking or not speaking, about him moving closer or farther away. He let Harry's gaze gently lap at him like waves, bearing him up, bathing him.
Slowly, Harry leaned over him, and he didn't move as Harry lowered his head until their lips were pressed together. The hand that had been resting on the pillow stole across his chest to curl around his neck. Neville turned into Harry's embrace, his arm coming up Harry's back, their legs tangling. The kiss was slow, almost tentative, not like the frantic snogging they'd grown accustomed to. It felt different, as if this kiss related somehow to what they'd been talking about, had something to do with that long silence and Harry looking at him. He felt Harry's sweaty hand against his neck, just inside his collar, and he wanted his hand inside, too. His hand slid down Harry's back and then up again beneath his shirt, touching the soft skin at the small of his back. It felt so warm and smooth against his fingers.
They were pressed tightly together, kissing in this different, non-frantic way, and then Harry rolled away just a bit, without breaking the kiss. The hand on his neck moved down across his chest, over his stomach, and then it slipped into the waistband of his pajamas. For the first time, Neville wished they would take their pajamas off, wanted to feel all of Harry's skin against his own. But he wasn't ready for that, wasn't nearly ready. He reached for Harry's erection just as Harry's hand grasped him. Hands in each other's pants: that was familiar. Only it wasn't rapid pulling and squeezing. Like the kiss, it was slow, careful - not tentative, either, but sure. Neville's hips rocked in time with the strokes, in time with their tongues and lips. There was a rhythm here that vibrated through their entire bodies. Something uniting, so that he felt Harry's mounting arousal just as surely as he felt his own. A coming together, as they came together, thrusting into each other's hands, breathing each other's breath.
Harry didn't draw away. He melted against Neville, curling into him, pulling off his glasses so he could press his face into Neville's neck. Neville's arms circled Harry's shoulders, drawing him close, and they fell asleep.