Confrontation In Greenhouse Two
by Shrift

Neville was eating a Cauldron Cake in greenhouse two and minding his own business when quite suddenly he was obliged to save Draco Malfoy's life. Granted, Draco Malfoy was an enormous git who regularly spouted all manner of childish vitriol at Harry, so upon leaving the greenhouse, Neville felt reasonably certain he deserved the hearty throttling Harry was subjecting him to. But if Harry got one more detention for quarreling with Malfoy, as they had been doing constantly since term had started two months before, Gryffindor would lose the last of their remaining house points faster even than Professor Umbridge had taken from them all last year.

And besides, all the screeching was going to disturb his newly repotted Mincing Mintberry plants.

Neville brushed the crumbs from his fingers, patted around for his wand, aimed it at the two brawlers, and said, "Expelliarmus!"

Harry tumbled arse over teakettle, landing with a meaty thump and a puff of dirt. Malfoy simply lay right where he was, wandless, gasping, and purple in the face. The new wand was proving to be a great improvement over his father's old one, and it was almost worth Gran's shouting all the way to Ollivander's at end of last term.

"All right, Harry?" asked Neville after a moment, although he didn't know why Harry wouldn't be, considering.

"Yeah," said Harry, spitting out a clod of dirt. "Why'd you do that for?"

"Professor McGonagall said --"

"I know what she said!" interrupted Harry, grimacing and reaching for his wand.

"But Harry," said Neville. "She'll have to suspend you from Quidditch again if you --"

"I know!" said Harry.

"I was only trying to help," said Neville. He hadn't expected thanks, but this just wasn't on. He should have remembered that Malfoy always got under Harry's skin like a conniving splinter.

Harry, growing enraged again, shouted, "Yeah. What the bloody hell do you think you're doing, helping Malfoy?"

"I wasn't --"

"You didn't aim the spell at him at all!" shouted Harry, waving his arms about.

"Oh, do shut up," said Neville wearily.

"Fine!" said Harry. He stumbled to his feet, smacked at the dirt on his robes, and stalked off with a dramatic flair that reminded Neville oddly of Professor Snape.

Neville stood over Malfoy. "You oughtn't provoke him, you know. He's stronger than you."

Normally, that sort of thing would have Malfoy bristling like Mrs. Norris, and, indeed, until the events at the Department of Mysteries, Neville would have been too terrified to think those words, let alone speak them. Instead of bristling, Malfoy simply blinked, stared up at him curiously, and said, "I see you've finally grown into your teeth."

Neville's hand tightened on his wand. Everyone at school had gone through some awkward phase or two when their bodies decided it was time to grow up. Well, everyone except Harry, but Neville would take the spots and the knobby elbows in a heartbeat over what Harry had to deal with instead. The rest of the students all looked a bit like a growing potion got wrong, even Malfoy. During third year, Malfoy's nose and hands were too big for the rest of him, although not nearly as bad as Neville's teeth. The rest of Malfoy caught up quickly, though, and now he was all lanky limbs and sleek muscles, and even sensible girls like Mandy Brocklehurst made strange fluttery noises whenever Malfoy pouted.

Malfoy pushed his hair out of his eyes. He had a bruise on his cheek, a cut on his lip, and smudges of dirt on his neck and wrist. Neville sighed heavily and offered him a hand up. After a long moment, Malfoy took it, standing up and shaking out his robe, and Neville thanked Merlin that Malfoy didn't feel the need to moan and groan about his injuries without a sympathetic audience in attendance.

"Bloody idiot Gryffindor," muttered Malfoy hoarsely, smoothing his clothes into place, "won't let a word in edgewise..."

Neville was taken aback. "You wanted to talk to Harry?"

"No," sneered Malfoy. "I thought I'd ambush him out in the open with absolutely no backup. You're as stupid as you look, Longbottom."

"Crabbe and Goyle aren't much backup," observed Neville.

Malfoy sent a withering look his way with the arch of an eyebrow. "Really? I hadn't noticed."

"Your throat's turning purple," said Neville. Malfoy touched his neck with his dirty fingers, and Neville's middle dipped to his knees unexpectedly.

"Why did you help me, anyway?" asked Malfoy.

"I didn't do it to help you," said Neville.

Malfoy curled his split lip into a sneer and blood slipped down his chin. "No one ever does."

Neville stared at him incredulously. "Why should we?"

Malfoy's face went pale and pinched, back to the way he had looked since September, when Neville first had caught glimpse of him on the Hogwarts Express. Malfoy'd been acting off, angry all the time and taking it out on everyone regardless of house, which he had great opportunity to do as a prefect. "Say it," hissed Malfoy. "Go on. You know you want to."

"I don't, actually," said Neville, backing away.

Malfoy followed him. "Of course you do. Everyone does, and you bloody Gryffindors get your end in at least thrice daily."

"Well, it's true, isn't it," said Neville, startling himself. "Your father is a Death Eater just like Harry says. He's done horrible things and hurt lots of people, and he deserves to rot in Azkaban for the rest of his life."

Malfoy looked as stunned as Neville felt. Before Malfoy could stop boggling long enough to reply, Neville turned on his heel and went back inside the greenhouse to collect the rest of his Cauldron Cake.

"Don't you dare walk away from me!" bawled Malfoy, stomping after him. "Do you hear me, Longbottom?"

Neville didn't answer; he simply stood at the potting table and let his hands clutch at the loose soil, lest the trembling in his fingers call attention to his sudden and extremely belated attack of nerves. Malfoy didn't possess his father's menace, because Malfoy was shorter than Neville and also very dirty, but there was no doubt where Malfoy had learned that tone of voice.

Malfoy came up behind him. "Do you hear me, I said!"

Neville's eyes remained firmly focused on his feet, or they would have been, were he able to see his feet through the potting table.

"I will not be ignored," said Malfoy hotly, and kicked Neville's ankle.

"Ouch," protested Neville, finally turning away from the potting table. "That hurt."

"Good," said Malfoy, kicking him again, this time in the shins.

Neville's attack of nerves abandoned him then to make way for a sudden case of deja vu. He'd been kicked in the shins before by Draco Malfoy, quite some time ago and in a place which was neither warm nor smelling of loam.

"St. Mungo's," said Neville to himself, and then to Malfoy, he asked, "why do I remember seeing you at St. Mungo's?"


Neville hated going there. It wasn't because it stank, for it was a very clean place, and Gran always informed him that the Muggle places for this were terrible worse. And it wasn't because it was loud; there were silencing charms on the rooms, and no one dared speak above a hushed whisper outside the main waiting area downstairs.

Gran always tugged him along by the arm or his ear, sitting him down on a bench outside the closed ward. "Stay put, young man," said Gran always, and then she swept off to speak to the Mediwitch who looked after them. Neville's mum and dad. He didn't remember them from when he was small, and when he did visit, they mostly lay there, like the time great-aunt Enid's cat went to sleep under the breakfast table and never woke up.

It made Neville afraid, and sometimes he cried, which always got Gran angry with him. She had shown him pictures of his mum and dad from before, and their pictures didn't look anything like the two gaunt and pale people shuffling about and jamming empty gum wrappers into Neville's pockets.

Neville always waited outside for Gran to come back, and then she would make him go inside to see them because he never went inside on his own. He looked down and kicked his feet, and hummed a little to himself, and didn't notice the small boy approach until he was standing right in front of Neville.

"Oh, hello," said Neville.

The boy stared. His hair was lighter than the petals on a Narcissus tazetta papyraceous. "I'm hungry."

"Oh," said Neville. He rummaged in his pockets. "I have a Chocolate Frog."

The boy sat down next to him on the bench. "What do you want for it?"

"Um," said Neville. He was rather hungry, too. "We could share."

The boy tilted his head and squinted, as if he didn't like that idea at all. "Share?"

Neville unwrapped the squirming frog and broke it in two. Neville handed the boy half with the legs still kicking. He took it gingerly, sniffing it, and only taking a small bite when Neville eagerly chomped on his half of frog.

"I'm still hungry," said the boy.

"Gran says there's tea upstairs," offered Neville after a moment. And with that, the small boy hopped off the bench and walked away with nary a please or thank you, not that Neville minded. Strange company was better than no company at all, but Neville promptly forgot about the boy when his Gran came back with the stuffed vulture on her hat all aquiver, and the red-faced Mediwitch following on her heels.

Months passed. The second time he saw the boy, he was trotting down the corridor just as Gran was poking Neville forward with her wand to see his mum and dad, and the third and fourth times, Neville saw the boy in passing in the upstairs tearoom.

The fifth time was almost a year after the first, and in almost the exact same spot.

"Hello," said Neville. The boy said hello back and held out a pumpkin pasty. Surprised, Neville had just taken it when a tall, imposing man swept up behind the boy, dropping the ornate handle of his cane on the boy's shoulder. The tall man gave Neville such a cold look that it felt as if someone had dropped a Fandango Frosty Pop down the back of his robes.

"Come, Draco," said the man, pulling the boy away by exerting pressure with his cane. Their hair was the same, so Neville guessed he was the boy's father, although he couldn't be sure, because he really didn't know what fathers looked like.

Still, Neville wasn't surprised that the next time he saw the boy and said hello, the boy named Draco sneered and kicked him in the shins.


Draco took a step back and bumped into the potting table. "I don't know what you're on about, Longbottom. I've never been to St. Mungo's."

"You were on the closed ward for spell damage," insisted Neville.

Draco's face went white under the blood and dirt. "No, I wasn't."

"I remember," said Neville. "I gave you half my Chocolate Frog, and then you kicked me."

Draco stared, and then blurted, "Oh, that was you?"

"Yeah," said Neville.

"I'd wondered," said Draco, and then his eyes widened as he realized what he'd admitted. "Don't you dare tell anyone."

"No, I --"

"My mother, she just -- it was a spell, and sometimes she --" Draco shoved Neville against the potting table, and the table's edge dug into the small of his back. "Tell anyone, and I'll hex you so badly Pomfrey will be sorting out your disgusting little bits for months!"

"Of course I won't tell anyone!" yelled Neville. "My mum and dad are there, you git! They've been there since before I can remember. Your aunt did it to them after You-Know-Who disappeared!"

Draco blinked. His lip was bleeding again. "What?"

"I don't want anyone to know they're there, either, all right?" said Neville shakily.

"My aunt?" said Draco, grabbing at the front of Neville's robe.

"Bellatrix Lestrange."

Neville hated her more than he'd ever hated anything, but Draco didn't appear terribly pleased to hear her name, either. Draco's eyes narrowed and his expression went black. "Dear Aunt Bell strikes again."

Neville felt faint. "What do you mean?"

Draco smiled, and traces of blood streaked his teeth. "She likes the Cruciatus curse, doesn't she?"

"Yes," said Neville, and shivered. "It hurts."

Draco's hands shook. "I swear, Longbottom, if you tell anyone --"

"I won't," said Neville.

"Not even a single one of your stupid Gryffindor friends," said Draco fiercely.

Neville shook his head. "I won't. I promise."

They were pressed close together, and Draco's panting breath felt warm on Neville's face. His vision swam like it did when he looked over the edge of the Astronomy Tower. And then Draco slid his hand onto Neville's nape, tugged down his head, and kissed him. Neville's jaw dropped in shock, and then Draco was kissing him with tongue. It felt strange and a little fantastic, and Draco's slippery mouth tasted tinny and sweet. Neville couldn't breathe. He had no idea what to do with his hands. His ears were hot and his lips tingled, and Neville hadn't quite got the appeal of snogging until just now, with Draco's hand on his neck and their tongues sliding together.

Draco took a step back and licked his lips. His hair fell in his eyes and Draco brushed at it impatiently, wincing when his hand made contact with the darkening bruise on his cheek.

Neville stood there staring, and then touched his own mouth with his fingertips.

"I've got rounds," said Draco after a moment.

"Oh," said Neville.

Draco didn't look half as stunned as Neville felt. "Remember that promise, Longbottom."

"No mentioning St. Mungo's," said Neville dumbly. Draco nodded and turned to leave, and Neville said, "Um, Malfoy?"

Draco stopped in the greenhouse doorway. "What?"

"Perhaps we won't mention this, either?" asked Neville in a small voice.

Draco smiled over his shoulder, and his eyes gleamed. "Perhaps we won't."

"Oh, bother," said Neville when Draco stepped out the door.


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