Broken Pedestals
by zahra

The door bangs open with such force that Neville can't find enough time to be alarmed. The teacup slips from his fingers as he reaches for the wand up his sleeve, and the dark silhouette outlined by the storm steps forward just as Neville's lips form the third 'A' in Avada.

"It's only me," Harry says, and Neville isn't sure whether to poke Harry's eye out with his wand or simply be glad it's not a bunch of Death Eaters. Instead he glances down at the porcelain cup shattered on the kitchen floor and laments his lost tea.

"What, exactly, is the point in having a code if you never use it?" Neville says, sticking his wand in the waistband of his trousers and crouching down to pick up the broken pieces. He discards them in the sink as Harry shuts the door behind him and crosses the kitchen floor.

Harry leaves puddles of mud and rain in his wake as he discards his boots and a long cloak. There are holes in his jumper and leaves in his hair.

"I was hollering for ten minutes," he says wiping his nose with the back of his hand and pausing a few feet away from Neville for inspection.

There's dirt underneath Harry's fingernails and one of the lenses in his glasses is cracked. There are scratches all over his face and his neck, and he looks as though he's been sleeping in ditches for the last fortnight -- which he probably has.

Neville takes a swift appraisal of Harry's state and nods towards the makeshift infirmary on the table.

"I didn't hear you," Neville says.

Harry licks at his lips absently and smirks. "So I'd gathered."

Neville rolls his eyes. "When you've quite finished."

Harry reaches out and rubs Neville's spiky hair fondly before pulling crossing to the table and sitting in a chair on the long end of the table.

Neville lights a few more candles and then follows Harry to the table. He sets the candles down, along with his wand, next to a shiny, silver tray and a roll of gauze.

Neville doesn't ask where Ron is. He doesn't ask why Harry's back two days late. If Harry wants to talk about it, he will. Neville knows when not to push. Instead he takes a large bit of cotton wool from the silver tray, dips it in a bottle of arnica and begins dabbing at the fresh scars on Harry's left cheek.

By Harry's hiss, Neville guesses that perhaps the liquid is a bit cold. And that it stings, a lot.

"Ginny and Seamus are down in Surrey," Neville says by way of distraction.

He doesn't say that Parvati's no longer with them. It's implied by the fact he doesn't use her name.

"Good," Harry replies.

Neville works in silence for several seconds as Harry hums a song that's vaguely familiar. "The Weird Sisters?" he asks.

Harry flinches slightly as Neville tries to extract a few random thorns from the side of his neck. "The Clash."

Neville nods as he haphazardly removes dry leaves matted into Harry's hair. When the leaves get stuck and crumple underneath his fingers, he pulls on them with more force. It's only when Harry clears his throat that Neville suspects he might be yanking a bit hard.

Offering some semblance of a smile, he pulls his stool a bit closer to where Harry sits and goes back to tending the scratches marring Harry's brow.

Outside the Burrow, the wind howls angrily, and Neville spares a thought for all those who are on assignment and not safely located inside stable walls. He bites his lip and tries to focus on the task at hand, but Harry's breath is warm against the side of his face, and he apologises when he gets distracted.

"It's windy." Harry says quietly as Neville looks for another clean piece of cotton wool amidst his supplies.

"I hadn't noticed," Neville deadpans as he finds what he needs.

When Neville reaches out to tilt Harry's head to the side, his elbow knocks his wand off the table and it falls to the floor with a hollow clatter. The thin ash rod rolls across the uneven floor until it comes to a stop against the damp boots Harry recently discarded. Neville doesn't even realise he's holding his breath until he exhales.

When he turns back to Harry, Neville finds dark eyes studying him carefully. Licking dry lips, Neville goes back to his ministrations.

"You should be a bit more careful," Harry says, refusing to flinch under Neville's probing touch. Neville nods as Harry goes back to focusing on some spot over Neville's left shoulder, which Neville vaguely recalls is where the Weasleys used to keep a clock.

"Right," Neville says, before going back to cleaning the deep gash over Harry's right eyebrow.

They used to do things like this with magic, but there are too many Tracers & Trackers attached to wands these days, and for something as simple as this, Muggle medicine will have to suffice. Not that Neville's an expert as such, but Hermione taught Neville as much as she could based on television programmes she'd watched long ago. A lot of it was improvisational though, traces of things she's picked up from her dentist parents, and after she died, Neville became the resident general practitioner. It was something for him to do to stave off the side effects of the last Crucio he suffered through. His Shakes aren't as violent or discernable as some of the others', and at least his fingers still when he's actively busy.

The cotton wool is thick and soft under his raw fingers, and he takes a good look at the deepest wound, trying to gauge how much thread it will take to close effectively.

There are also small amounts of nettle astringent and Scots pine that Neville can use to ease the blood flow if it's indeed that dire. Except that he's been hoarding them for a long time now, and if he continues to save them for someone else there may be no one left to need it before long. After some thought he applies the astringent liberally to Harry's cut.

"When was the last time anyone got a report from George or Dean?" Harry asks as Neville measures dark thread against the length of his forearm.

Neville glances up for a second before going back to the task at hand. "Three weeks."


Neville licks cracked lips as he carefully threads the curved needle and glances up at Harry's blank face. At least these stitches will be small. It's hard to hover over his mates and have cheerful conversations when he's busy putting them back together again.

"You should have more to eat," he says sitting up tall and beckoning Harry to move forward. Their knees bang together and Neville shifts to the side.

"I'm not really hungry," Harry lies.

Neville pulls the closest candle a bit closer. "You look like a rake," he says burning the needle for sterilization.

"It's all the rage now." Harry's tone is decidedly dry, but there's a slight gleam in his eyes. "Everybody wants to look like they've been starving and all."

Neville makes a noncommittal noise. "This is going to hurt," he says, taking a firm grip on Harry's jaw and turning him to the side.

Harry purses his lips as Neville considers his profile and the best place to start. "You could lie about it," he says, the tiniest hint of a sulk in his tone.

"If you like." Neville smiles.

Harry snorts, but when Neville glances down he can see Harry white-knuckling his knee. A small smile flits across Neville's lips as he leans forward and plants a small kiss just under Harry's left eye.

"That's -- Ow!" Harry says as Neville begins to make the first stitch.

"I told you it would hurt." Neville's hold on Harry's chin is extremely tight. He doesn't want to have to do this over again because he's never been very good at tending to Harry's wounds. The slight reality of mere flesh and bone makes him nervous now, it was much easier when he was in awe of Harry.

"Next time --" Harry begins.

Neville interrupts. "There won't be a next time."

"Right," Harry says with a bit more conviction. "I bloody well hope not."

Neville sighs. "So do I."


Long after the day's ration of candles have burned out and they've wandered the house in the dark for several hours, they climb into one of the vacant beds and fall asleep curled together.

Neville's hand fits in the groove of Harry's hip like a piece slotting into a puzzle, and between the snuffling and shifting about, Harry dozes off lightly and Neville falls asleep while taking Harry's pulse. Sometimes they have sex, sometimes they don't. Their togetherness isn't as much about physical urges as about the psychological ones. They provide each other with comfort and warmth and an extra set of ears that might pick up something that they would otherwise miss.

It's an arrangement of convenience, but with benefits, and they wouldn't necessarily call it love, but they might not call it anything else either.

A long time ago, when people were alive and the number of impromptu graves didn't outnumber the living, people paired themselves off by declaring their long and unrequited desires, and since Neville and Harry didn't really have anyone else to turn to, they found each other. They came together in the way that most outsiders generally sense each other, but as people began to disappear and hearts were broken, their sense of camaraderie began to shift to encompass more of the things they needed that they weren't able to get from other people.

There's genuine devotion on both sides, but they don't tend to speak about it in the light of day in almost a superstitious way. They don't tend to over-analyse and discuss things to death either. They're not terribly demonstrative in their affection, but it's clear enough to them that it's there, and it's enough that they have their 'understanding'.

They suspect it's kept them alive a lot longer than most of the people they've known.


Neville tends to wake up before the sun these days. Sleeping in is just a vague concept in his mind that's offset by a faint paranoia about the people he can't account for. He knows that Harry tends to be the same way, but he reckons that Harry needs as much sleep as he can get; so he carefully extracts himself from Harry's long arms and staggers downstairs, pulling a large gray jumper over his head with his mind in a fog.

He stubs his toe on an errant nail on the fourth step from the bottom of the stairs, and curses softly at the sun streaming in through the ragged curtains. There's water left in the kettle from the day before, and Neville sets about making a fire in the fireplace using flint and a few twigs so that the water will be hot for tea.

While the water heats up, Neville picks several leaves of verbena from the sideboard and sticks them in two mismatched teacups to wait. He busies himself by clearing up the dishes from the night before and trying to figure out where he's going to get more supplies. He's stripped half of the surrounding countryside of its vegetation and while he's not terribly interested in straying far from the Burrow, he'll do whatever it takes to keep people safe.

Neville's mind is swirling with thoughts of rosemary and arnica when there's the light brushing of lips against the back of his neck, and he whirls around quick enough to complete dislodge Harry from behind him.

Whatever guilt Neville might feel completely evaporates as Harry laughs at him. "It's been a while has it? Is that what you're trying to say?"

Harry rubs at his face where Neville's hand connected with his jaw.

Neville frowns. "What did you think was going to happen with you sneaking about like Peeves?"

"I wasn't sneaking about -- you just didn't hear me over the clatter of the washing."

"You're lucky I didn't kill you -- see how you like being surprised when you're doing the dishes."

Harry has the grace to look ashamed and Neville makes a defeated noise as the kettle goes off.

While Harry sets to making the tea, Neville goes back to the plates in the sink.

A long time ago, Neville looked up to Harry as though he could do no wrong. In the back of Neville's mind he knows that it's only been a year and a few months at the most, but this Harry is not the same boy that Neville used to know. When he thinks about the way that Harry bleeds and looks thin and tired and drawn out, he wonders when Harry lost that faerie-type glow that he always seemed to have about him, and then he wonders if Harry ever had it to start with.

Perhaps Harry's always been thin and tired-looking and Neville just didn't see it until Harry starting going about with dirt in his ears and scars on his forearms.

Neville harbours a certain amount of fondness for the old Harry, but he thinks he prefers Harry the way he is now. He seems very real and tangible and human, but his sense of humour's not changed in the slightest. For better and worse.

Neville's just drying his hands to take his teacup from Harry when the door flies open with a clatter, and Neville's got his wand out before his feet are covered in hot tea.


"All right, Neville?"

Neville's not sure what to make of ghosts in the kitchen, and it's rare to catch Harry off-guard, but clearly he's not expecting dead people to come through the door either. Or at the least Neville's not expecting dead people to come through the front door and he's startled Harry enough for both of them.

Neville's wand vibrates as his hand shakes. "I thought --- I thought you were dead."

"Not really?" Ron says disbelief etched into every line of his face as he turns from Neville to Harry. "Just because I didn't come back with Harry? He didn't tell you he'd left me mucking about in Dorset while he came home? You sneaky little shit."

There's a long pause in the conversation and all Neville can hear is Harry's shallow breathing next to him.

"And you let him believe that I was dead?" The look Ron gives Harry says it all. "You're a crap boyfriend, you are."

"We hadn't talked about it," Harry begins.

"And what's that got to do with it, exactly?" Ron says, crossing his arms as Harry reaches out and pushes Neville's wand towards a safer area. "It's not like it's a long conversation to have."

"My sentiments exactly," Neville snaps, sending a withering look Harry's way.

Ron shakes his head. "I can see that you two've got things you'd like to discuss, I'm just off to do something elsewhere, but buggered if I know what." The front door slams shut behind Ron as he nods to Neville and heads for the stairs.

Ron's thudding footfalls echo through the structure as Neville tries to gather his thoughts. "You let me think Ron was dead," he begins, more than a little appalled.

"I didn't mean..." Harry protests.

Neville rounds on Harry with his wand still in his hand. "You didn't tell me otherwise"

"I didn't know you'd assumed he was dead."

"Everybody's always dead when you don't mention them after you've been out!" Neville says.

Harry opens and closes his mouth perfunctorily. "All right, but don't you think I'd've mentioned it if something had happened to Ron?"

"That's just it. I don't know," Neville says. "I'm tired of not knowing what's going on," Neville slides his wand up his sleeve before pushing past Harry to the kitchen table. He can feel Harry's eyes on him as he begins stacking small bottles on top of each other and muttering to himself about bags.

"What are you doing?" Harry asks, his uncertainty clear.

"Packing for battle."

Harry's tone is decidedly resolute. "You're not coming."

"Yes, I am."

"Neville, the last time --" When Harry's voice drops off, Neville glances back at the thin line of Harry's mouth and narrowed eyes. Harry's left temple is ticking and it's obvious, at least to Neville that he's upset. These are the little things that Neville has picked up on in light of their poor communication skills.

"This is not the last time." Neville rounds on Harry, his tone just as set. "Do you really think you can stop me?"


"Absolutely not, Harry. If you think that after prophecies, parents and all the like, I'm letting you run off to leave me here like your wife, you can think again."

"It's not about that, it's about you, and --" Harry gestures to Neville's hands with a stormy look on his face. "What if something like that happens again? What if you get seriously hurt?"

"Seriously hurt as opposed to what? It can't get much worse!" Neville can feel the anger stirring in his veins.

"I don't need you to protect me, thank you very much, Mr Hero," he shouts. "Bad things happen in battle, I'm well aware of that, but that's neither here nor there -- it just is. And what I need is to be treated like I've got a bloody brain, because I do, in case it's escaped you with all the dirt in you ears and the like."

Harry's quiet for several seconds under Neville's intense glare.

"I haven't got dirty ears," he protests eventually, and all the anger seeps out of Neville's pores. "I've no interest in losing you, too," Harry says.

"The only way you'll lose me is if you try and keep me here," Neville sighs. "I understand you're used to doing it all yourself, but you really don't have to. I don't need you to be my saviour or the like. I need to be included; I'm going insane here by myself, and this war isn't going to be won by people not communicating or sitting around on their arse. Besides, won't it be easier if the doctor is there rather than people being forced to come to me?"

Harry's deep sigh speaks volumes, and Neville goes back to his packing trying resolutely not to smile.

"Well said," Ron's voice calls down from somewhere, and Neville can't help but laugh. It's been a long time since he's felt the urge to laugh about anything, and when he crosses the kitchen to kiss Harry, it's not to make peace, but just because he can.

They don't always communicate very well, but at least they're trying, and maybe that's all they need in the end.


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