Also, second hp_yule_balls fic to the extreme!
Title: Remedial Herbology
Fandom: Harry Potter
Pairing: Neville Longbottom/Theodore Nott
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Length: 3000 words
Summary: As punishments go, cleaning out greenhouse two isn't much of one. Having Theodore Nott there to supervise is a different story.
Dedication: nathaniel_hp [in hp_yule_balls]
Beta: scrtkpr ♥
Note: Originally posted here on LJ and here on IJ.
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
Neville was doing his best to keep from laughing.
Alecto Carrow's idea of a cruel punishment -- making Neville clean out greenhouse two without magic -- showed just how little she and her brother knew about the students at Hogwarts. It didn't matter that the Mandrakes were acting up, or that the Wandering Sneezewort had been bored yesterday and left a thick trail of slime whilst visiting the other plants. The Hogwarts greenhouses had always been Neville's happy place, and he didn't care about the kind of work he needed to do.
His cheerfulness abated somewhat when he saw Theodore Nott lounging on one of the empty tables, swinging his long legs, a look of sincere boredom on his pale, vaguely rodent-like face. Neville had never had much to do with Nott, but he was a Slytherin, and that meant he'd been sent here by the Carrows -- or worse, Snape.
"You're late," Nott said.
Neville shrugged. "You'll live."
"Rebel to the bitter end, eh, Longbottom?"
Neville turned his back, heading for the supply cupboard. Nott was probably there to try and distract him, so that Alecto would have a reason to torture him again when she came to inspect the greenhouse. Not that she wouldn't find another reason even if Neville did finish this job in two hours. His "detentions" were becoming increasingly predictable lately: he would be given a seemingly simple task, hindered in some way from completing it, then hexed and cursed six ways from Monday. The Carrows probably thought this was the height of creativity and cunning.
As if any of it was going to work on him. Dumbledore's Army may be in tatters, but Neville wasn't going to stop fighting. Harry was out there somewhere, and that meant hope for everybody. Even though it might not seem that way when one was forced to mop up a Wandering Sneezewort's leavings. Neville eased the water hose into a bucket and twisted the wall-mounted valve. As the bucket filled, Neville drew a pair of work gloves from Professor Sprout's spare apron hanging in the cupboard.
"Looks like you've done this before," Nott remarked. Neville started a little; he'd forgotten he wasn't alone.
"What's it to you?" Neville muttered, not bothering to turn around.
He shut off the water and plunged the mop into the bucket. If he could heat the water, the cleaning would go faster, but no magic was allowed. He couldn't mix any Mrs Skower's into the water, either; the vapours would hurt the Trilling Mimosa sprouts. They were looking well, he observed with a surge of pride. If he was still at Hogwarts in the spring, he might even see them bloom. But two months was a long time.
"So do you know what Potter is up to?" Nott asked.
Neville gave the trail of ooze a frustrated swipe of the mop, smearing it even worse. "Is that why they sent you here? So you could ask me stupid questions?"
"I'm supposed to hex you for every unsatisfactory answer -- that way if Professor Snape asks them any questions, they can blame it on me," Nott said. "But I really can't be arsed."
Neville, who had tensed at the mention of hexes -- nobody had said he couldn't use magic to defend himself -- turned around, bewildered. "What?"
Nott smirked. "Deaf, are you?"
Neville shook his head and went back to mopping. "Dunno what you're playing at," he mumbled. "But if you're not going to hex me, leave me alone."
"You do know they're going to beat you up no matter how hard you try. Don't you?"
Neville ignored him. The slime was coming off, if slowly; if he kept up this pace, he'd have at least the longest patch of it done by the time Alecto came to inspect his work. The Mandrakes were rustling about in their enclosure, their yammering muffled. Professor Sprout had put the Wandering Sneezewort in a glass tank, and the plant -- evidently still bored -- was trying to climb the walls, sliding down with a wet squeak each time. Neville concentrated on the mopping, the slow burn in his arm muscles, familiar and pacifying.
Then bloody Nott spoke again. "If you ask me, they're all idiots."
"I didn't ask you," muttered Neville, wiping his forehead with his sleeve. "But if you're going to talk at me, at least make some sense."
"The Death Eaters," Nott explained.
"Your dad's a Death Eater," Neville said, glancing at Nott over his shoulder.
"My dad's in jail," Nott said flatly. "And the Dark Lord's a complete nutter."
Neville resumed mopping. "Have him round for tea often, do you?"
Nott scoffed. "All I've got to do is listen to Malfoy talk about him. He's living at the Malfoys' now, did you know?"
"Heard as much," Neville replied, wondering where this was leading. Nott couldn't just be making conversation; they had never spoken to each other before. If he thought Neville was going to let down his guard just because Nott promised not to hex him, then Nott needed to think again.
The Wandering Sneezewort flopped to the bottom of its tank with a whump and let out a tiny wail, causing the baby Venomous Tentacula suspended from the ceiling to wake up and begin snapping at spiders. Neville wanted to focus on these things but couldn't, after what Nott had just said. Had that been the intention? Was Neville just falling for whatever act Nott had cooked up? Either way, he was curious enough now to ask questions. Trouble was, he didn't know what to ask. How did one talk to Slytherins, anyway?
Finally, he settled on, "Why are you talking to me about this?" He kept his head down, eyes on the mop.
"Because I feel like it," came the reply. "Why do you ask?"
Neville had now mopped about half the long patch and was nearly level with Nott's perch. "You're a Slytherin," he said. "Your lot's with Snape and the Carrows, so why would you --?"
"Pfft," Nott interrupted him. "Just because most of my housemates are stupid enough to buy into the Dark Lord's bullshit doesn't mean we all are."
Neville tried to think of a Gryffindor who didn't support Dumbledore's Army. He couldn't. "Right," he said, swiping furiously at a stubborn ooze-patch.
"Some of my housemates even think you're really interesting, now."
"Who's interesting?" Neville asked, glancing over. Did he mean Dumbledore's Army? Was Nott trying to tell him Slytherins were wanting to join up?
"You," Nott replied, pointing at him.
Neville was so stunned he forgot he was supposed to be mopping. "Me?"
"Well, you've taken over Potter's spot quite handily, haven't you? Wasted no time at all. It's a bit uncanny how they're all eating out of your hand now. Impressive. And interesting."
Neville whirled round to face him, dropping the mop. "Is that why you think--? That I want to be in Harry's--? It's not true!"
One of Nott's legs shot out, and Neville fumbled for his wand, but just a moment too late. Then both of Nott's legs clamped around him, and Nott pulled him in. He was taller than Neville, and their faces were now level. Nott's fingers gripped Neville's chin. "I think you're interesting, too," Nott murmured. "But for a different reason." His breath smelled of warm peppermint. Neville blinked. Nott's legs around him, Nott's face so close -- it was intimate in a way he had never known before. Nott's low voice still echoed in his ears, and the whole thing was making him feel... sexy. Neville didn't know what else to call it. His heart was racing, a flush was spreading up his neck, and he couldn't remember where he'd put his stomach.
It was over in a moment, though; panic finally set in, and Neville grabbed Nott's legs, trying to pry them away. "What're you--mmprh?" Nott's mouth had covered his.
Neville had always fantasised about his first kiss happening amidst his beloved plants, but he hadn't thought he'd be standing in a puddle of Wandering Sneezewort slime. He certainly hadn't thought he would be kissing another boy. But fantasies aside, kissing felt really nice -- the tongue thing was a bit weird, but it was sending languid waves of pleasure through Neville's groin, pleasure of a sort Neville had only known whilst wanking. So he returned the kiss as best he could, though he couldn't quite work out where exactly to stick his tongue without bumping into Nott's.
Dear God, Theodore Nott's tongue was in his mouth. Panic surged up in him again. Neville's hands on Nott's legs twitched, and he pulled away from the kiss with a gasp. "Uh," he managed. "Whuh?"
His higher brain functions didn't appear to be working, and his baser instincts were telling him to stop being such a tosser and go back to kissing already.
"I think you liked it," Nott said. His lips were wet, and right now, he didn't appear rodent-like at all. Neville valiantly tried to remind himself of all the bad things Nott had done, but he couldn't come up with anything except "he's a Slytherin". His hands were no longer trying to push Nott's legs off him; they were squeezing instead, and Neville was leaning forward, realising he wanted to keep kissing Nott, caution and consequences be damned.
But the thought of consequences stopped him. "Alecto," he said, attempting to pull away again. "She's going to be here soon."
"No, she won't," Nott replied, pressing even closer to Neville and putting his arms round Neville's neck. "I cast a Tunnel Vision Jinx outside. She'll be walking in place for ages before she works out she'll never reach the door."
"Y-you came here for this?" Neville whispered, dumbstruck.
"No," Nott whispered back. "I came here for you."
Neville didn't have the foggiest clue what to say to that, but it made him feel strangely elated. Somewhere in the back of his mind, a tiny, impish gremlin frowned and told him not to let his guard down, but he was so brain-addled by now that it made no difference. Besides, Nott was kissing him again, and for some reason it felt even better now.
Neville went into a kind of trance as Nott pulled his robes up in a series of jerks, running slightly tremulous hands up Neville's torso and then down his sides, his kisses becoming distracted. Nott's fingers danced over bruises, but Neville felt no pain. Nott traced the fresh scars on his back, hesitant, but Neville couldn't remember how he'd got those scars anymore. Being touched like this was the opposite of fighting, and Neville had never liked fighting -- he fought because he had a duty.
Then Nott's hand cupped Neville's cock, and all else fled from Neville's mind. Nott tugged down Neville's pants impatiently and let them fall, then took his cock in hand, his mouth finding Neville's once more. Neville had had no idea that having someone else touch him there would feel so much more brilliant than touching himself. Nott's hand was soft, and Neville kissed Nott, sloppy and desperate, angling his hips forward and up, willing him mentally to never, ever stop.
As if reading Neville's mind and wishing to be contrary, Nott pushed him away. "Wait," he said and climbed off the table. Then he went to his knees.
Neville could only stare, wide-eyed, and then all he knew was the wet heat around his cock, and Nott's tongue gliding against the head, now pointed and rigid, now flat and soft. A desperate sound escaped Neville's mouth, and when Nott responded with a groan, Neville realised Nott's other hand was underneath his own robes. He wished he could see, but the thought alone -- of Nott's fingers wrapped around his cock, quick and sure and practised -- made something in him uncoil into a tangled mess of spiking pleasure. He didn't think he'd ever stop crying out as he came, shuddering and still unable to take his eyes off Nott, who stroked Neville's balls gently with his free hand, his eyes shut as he swallowed every drop.
Finally, Nott pulled away, letting Neville's cock flop down wetly. Neville thought he could hear echoes of his moans still reverberating through the greenhouse. The Wandering Sneezewort sat quietly in its tank, apparently observing him -- which was a silly thought, because it didn't have eyes. Even the Mandrakes had stopped their racket. Awkwardly, Neville pulled his pants up and let his robes fall. He felt like crawling onto the empty table and falling asleep, but at the same time his whole body thrummed restlessly in a strange, new rhythm. Had this really just happened--?
Pink-faced, eyes averted, Nott got to his feet, and Neville stumbled backwards, nearly falling into the Sneezewort 's droppings. He seized the edge of the opposite table for balance and took a deep breath.
Nott took out his wand and pointed it at the Sneezewort ooze. "Evanesco," he said.
"Thanks," Neville whispered, looking down at the now-pristine floor.
Then he ran blindly out of the greenhouse, past a bewildered-looking Alecto, into the winter wind. He barrelled through the Gryffindor common room, wild-eyed and barely breathing, stumbled over the steps to his dormitory, and drew his bed hangings tightly closed, shutting out the world. But the image of Nott stayed in his mind, vivid with colour and unexpected feeling. He didn't know what was more frightening -- the thought that Nott had been playing with him or the thought that he hadn't been.
Three days later, Neville's gran went into hiding, and so did Neville.
It was lonely in the Room of Requirement. Neville had been here for a week now, sneaking out late at night to swipe food from the kitchens. No one had a clue he was still inside the school, and he hadn't dared approach any of the others yet -- not while the hunt for him was still the first thing on the Carrows' minds. He had heard them outside, them and their Slytherin cronies, banging on walls and knocking over suits of armour. But the Room of Requirement had not opened to them, even though surely the foremost thing on their minds was the need to find Neville.
So with this new level of protection, he was going to be alone here until he worked out how to let Ginny, Luna, and the others know where he was. But would the room let them in?
There was a faint humming noise, and the door swung open. A gangling figure loomed against the backdrop of a hallway for a few moments, and then the visitor stepped inside and shut the door.
"Nott!" cried Neville and tried to climb out of the hammock, but it tangled round his legs, and he fell to the floor in an awkward heap. He sat up, rubbing the back of his head and feeling somewhat sheepish. "How did you get in here?"
Nott gave him guarded look. "I was just walking down the corridor, thinking I needed to find you. All of a sudden, there was a door, and here you are. What sort of place is this, anyway?"
Neville frowned. The Room's protection must have extended only to Death Eaters and their friendlies. If ever Neville had needed proof that Nott hadn't lied to him that one night, this was it. Most importantly, this confirmed that DA members would be able to come in here if they chose.
Needed to find you. What did that mean?
"Well?" Nott looked around the room. "What is this?"
Neville sighed. "A hiding place. A really good one."
"Yeah, I just bet," Nott said, crossing his arms. "That's why I found you in seconds, right?"
"It's complicated," Neville replied, tugging at his collar absently. "So, um. Why were you looking for me?"
Nott raised an eyebrow. "Isn't it obvious?"
"Sorry," Neville said with a shrug. "Not really."
"I wanted to see you," Nott said, looking away. "After you ran off like your arse was on fire--"
Neville had thought a lot about that night, but he'd never thought his flight might've bothered Nott. "Um, yeah, about that. Sorry. I was just--"
Nott shook his head and waved him off. Then he looked directly at Neville with a questioning expression. "Let's do it again and I'll forgive you."
"When?" Neville blurted and immediately wanted to evaporate. Slick, Longbottom. Really slick.
Nott grinned. "I'd say now, but I have to be back in the dungeons in ten minutes."
That's plenty of time, Neville wanted to say. He wisely kept his mouth shut this time.
Nott tilted his head to one side. "How about tomorrow in greenhouse two? After dark."
Neville didn't know why he felt compelled to come up with a reason for Nott to back out. "Won't your housemates wonder why you're going out so late?"
"I'll tell them I'm doing remedial Herbology."
"Oh." Maybe Neville expected Nott to back out because he still couldn't believe someone was interested in him for, well. Things. But Nott hadn't backed out, and Neville wasn't going to give him any more chances to do it. "All right, then. Tomorrow night at seven."
Nott gave a small nod and turned to leave, looking slightly flustered. Neville's arm shot out, seizing Nott's sleeve in an awkward grip. He didn't know why. "Um," he said, "S-sorry, I..."
Nott smiled at him -- not the vague half-smirk Neville kept imagining but a real, open smile, if a little embarrassed. "See you tomorrow," he said.
The Slytherins were leaving Hogwarts.
Neville hadn't thought it would come to this, but there they went, stiff-backed as one, following Slughorn to safety. He thought back to all those stolen hours that still seemed too short and too few. The intimacy, the conversations, the private little jokes, the terror of being caught. All of that was slipping away as the Slytherins marched on.
Neville's eyes weren't searching the crowd for Nott's lanky frame.
And if they were, maybe it meant he had one more reason to stay alive.