Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter.

Something New

Chapter Nine

The weeks until it was time for Harry and Neville to move in together seemed to fly by. School was wrapping up for the year, and the students were all stressed. This wasn't so much a problem for Harry, since his class was more stress relief than stress-inducing, but Neville was more tired than normal.

That, combined with his grandmother's reaction to their relationship, made him more irritable than normal, and left Harry feeling like he was walking on eggshells around his partner.

He found himself falling back on tricks he'd used when he'd been with the Dursleys to make himself less noticeable, and even though Harry knew it wasn't a good idea, knew that he shouldn't feel that way in a proper relationship, he still couldn't stop himself from doing it. And he didn't know if it was Neville's fault or his own, but he was angry with himself for doing it, regardless.

It was the Friday before they were going to move in together, and now Harry was wondering if this was a good idea after all. He didn't want to live his life like he'd lived with the Dursleys, sneaking around and trying his hardest not to be noticed, lest he draw their wrath down on him. Things with Neville shouldn't be like that. Harry didn't know much about relationships, but he was pretty sure that he was right about that.

He drew in a deep breath, glanced at the clock, and forced himself to catch Neville's attention. "Do you want to get dinner?" he asked Neville quietly, something hard and anxious in the pit of his stomach.

Neville looked up from the papers he was grading, a fearsome scowl on his face. The parchment stack in front of him was large, and would likely take him most of the weekend at the best of times. Given that he and Harry were supposed to be moving in together the next day, Harry was almost certain that they wouldn't be getting done.

"Does it look like I have time to get dinner?" Neville bit out. He jerked his eyes back down to the piece of parchment in front of him.

"I could help," Harry said hesitantly. "After we eat something. I could try grading some of the papers."

"What do you know about Herbology?" Neville asked. He didn't look up from the paper in front of him.

Harry's breath left him in a small, pained noise that Neville either didn't hear or didn't care about. "Nothing," Harry said dully. "I'll see you later."

He slipped from the room before his tears could start to fall. Once outside, he leaned against the cold stone of the walls and took several shuddering breaths. He took off his glasses and dug the palms of his hands into his eyes. It didn't help, not really. He was still crying, he knew it, and he couldn't go to the Great Hall in tears.

So he didn't. He wandered the castle quietly for what felt like forever. What was he doing? Getting into a serious relationship so soon after things had fallen apart with Ginny… And Neville was… he was so angry lately, and yes, they were both under large amounts of stress, but Harry… he felt like he was making excuses.

He didn't want to, but he thought that maybe he should go to Minerva and tell her that the move was off, that he and Neville should keep separate rooms. And maybe they shouldn't make plans for over the summer, even though Harry had been thinking that it might be nice to spend some time travelling with Neville. Maybe this was all moving too fast, and Harry should just… give up.

He drew in another shuddering breath and headed for the kitchens, the growling in his stomach almost an afterthought. He got food from the elves, who were as exuberant and ready to provide as always, then headed back to his rooms. Maybe… maybe Neville would eat with him now?

He wasn't expecting to be half-tackled when he entered the room, and the plate of food went flying under the sudden assault.

A bit of quick wandwork on the part of the assailant caught the plate and the food, leaving both unharmed, though Neville didn't let go of Harry.

Harry swallowed, staring up at Neville. "Hi," he said, a bit weakly.

"Where did you go?" Neville asked urgently.

Harry shrugged. "I just… I wandered. I wasn't hungry, so I wandered, and then I thought maybe you might like food, so I stopped by the kitchens and got enough for both of us. What's wrong?"

"I couldn't find you." Neville put the plate of food down, then collapsed on top of Harry. "I was such an ass to you earlier, Harry. I'm so sorry."

Harry swallowed. "I…" He wanted to say that it was okay, that they didn't ever need to talk about it again, but… "I don't like the way that things have been for the past two weeks," he whispered. He pressed on Neville's shoulders, and Neville immediately got off of him and shifted back to sit on the floor. Harry sat up. "It's…" Harry took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

Neville was frowning, a little furrow between his brow. "I know that I've been more stressed than normal, and I know that I've been a bit short tempered, but…"

Harry shook his head, cutting Neville off with the gesture. "You have, and that's… it would be okay, but I…" He stopped again. He didn't want to talk about the Dursleys. It had been horrible while he'd been growing up, but it was over, and he hated that they still had power over him so long after they'd left his life.

"Harry?" Neville asked. "You know that I don't want to hurt you. If my irritability is having a bad effect—"

"You're allowed to be irritable in your own home!" Harry snapped. He wasn't angry with Neville, and he knew that. He was mad at himself, at the mess that he was, that he was making of all of this. If he were just… just normal… then…

"Not if it's hurting you," Neville said carefully. He moved forward and settled next to Harry, then wrapped an arm around his shoulder. "I think this is something we need to talk about, Harry. I never want to hurt you."

Harry leaned into him with a small sigh. "It's not…" He took a deep breath. He'd never had this conversation with Ginny, partially because she'd known some of it and partially because he'd been dead set against it. And, looking back, there was a good chance that his unwillingness to talk about the Dursleys had played a part in the demise of their relationship. "You know that I grew up with my mother's sister?" he asked finally.

"I didn't know that," Neville said. "You never talked much about your home life."

"That's because it was awful," Harry finally said with a small, sad sigh. "I hate talking about this, but I think… you deserve to know the truth of what you're getting in to with me."

"Harry," Neville breathed. He tilted Harry's head towards him and pressed a soft kiss to his lips. "There's nothing wrong with you."

Harry shook his head. "No, see, there's a lot wrong with me, and it's sweet of you to keep saying otherwise, but Neville, I'm a mess." Once he'd started talking, Harry found that he couldn't make himself stop the outpouring of words. "I don't deal well with aggression, I never have. I'd rather hide than fight when it's someone I care about, and I hate it when people that I care for are angry with me. I've spent the past two weeks feeling like… like… like I was on eggshells, like you hated me, and it doesn't matter because I know that you don't, I just... I don't eat when I'm stressed because the Dursleys liked to starve me—"

"They did what?" Neville shouted. He didn't pull away from Harry, but Harry didn't miss the fact that his partner's hand was on his wand, his grip white-knuckled.

Harry flinched. "They didn't feed me much," he whispered. He looked down at his hands, which were tangling in his robe. He jumped again when Neville's hand landed on them, stilling them. "They hated me," he said quietly. "They were frightened of magic. They called me a freak. When I did accidental magic, which happened… frequently, they would lock me in my cup… in my room."

Neville's eyes were burning when Harry dared glance up at him. "Where would they lock you, Harry?" he asked, his voice steady. It was easy to see the Gryffindor in him when he was as angry as he was in that moment.

Harry swallowed. "My room, growing up, was the cupboard under the stairs," he said. He didn't look away this time. "They only moved me when my Hogwarts letters started coming, because they were afraid that I was being watched. I wasn't, not really, but they gave me Dudley's second bedroom, then."

Neville drew in a deep breath, closed his eyes, and when he opened them he almost looked calm except for the way that his eyes still burned. "I'd ask you if they were still alive, if they were ever punished, but somehow I think that I would have heard if they'd died or if they'd gone to trial."

Harry shrugged. "The last I knew, they were still alive. I see Dudley occasionally. He turned out not too terrible, considering how bad his parents were."

Neville placed a hand on his cheek, then drew Harry in for a long, soft kiss. When he pulled back, he left his hand in place and said, "I want you to know that, no matter how stressed I am over work or anything else, I will never hurt you. And I will do better about controlling my irritability, so that you don't ever have to feel… like you need to sneak around in your own home. I never want you to feel like that, and I'm sorry that I made you feel that way."

Harry let out a shaky sigh, the hard thing inside of him finally unfurling. He leaned in for another kiss, and relaxed even further when Neville returned it easily. "I love you," Harry breathed when they pulled apart. "And I was so… I spent the last week thinking that maybe you didn't want to move in with me after all."

Neville's face crumpled. "There's nothing I want more than to move in with you," he said. "I'm so sorry that I put you through that." He pulled Harry into a hug.

Harry relaxed in Neville's arms. He wanted to say that it was okay, but it wasn't. Instead, he said quietly, "I forgive you."

Neville's arms tightened briefly. "Are you hungry, since you brought food?" he asked after a long moment of silence.

Harry let out a shaky laugh and shook his head. His stomach was still churning, and the food that he'd brought for them was too rich for him to eat when he was as worked up as he was. "I'm really not," he said. "Not for what I brought, anyway. I could maybe eat a few crackers?"

Neville helped him off the ground and grabbed the plate from the floor. "We have those," he said. "Why don't we have dinner together, or at least as much as you're able to eat?"

Harry hesitated and glanced at the stack of parchment that didn't look to have diminished at all in his absence. "You… don't you have papers to grade? That sort of thing?"

"I do," Neville said. "But they'll keep. My students might just have to wait a little bit longer than they would like to get them back, that's all. They'll survive."

Harry smiled. "Okay," he said quietly.

ooOOooOOoo

Morning dawned to the sound of banging on Harry's door, sharp and impatient. He didn't particularly want to leave Neville's embrace, but he didn't have much of a choice when Neville got up instead and answered the door, still in his pajamas.

"Granger," Neville said. "Do you realize what time it is?"

Harry heard the quiet sound of Hermione's laughter. "Do you?" she countered. "This is the time that you and Harry asked for help moving, isn't it? We even gave you a few extra minutes, just to make sure that you weren't running late or anything."

"Tempus," Neville muttered. "Oh. Merlin's pants. We… overslept. We'll be out in a few minutes, okay?"

Harry heard the door close, and then the bed dipped as Neville returned to him. "How much did we oversleep?" he asked tiredly.

"Well, they gave us an extra half hour, so…"

Harry groaned and dragged himself to a sitting position. "I don't want to move again," he said, a bit petulantly. "It's exhausting."

Neville smiled at him and tucked Harry's hair behind his ear. "It's okay," he said gently. "We have plenty of help. Everyone showed up, from the looks of our sitting room."

Harry sighed and leaned in for a sleepy good morning kiss. When he pulled away, Neville was practically beaming at him. "You're too cheerful for this early in the morning," Harry said with a sigh. "I don't know that we can move in together after all."

The whack with one of the pillows was not entirely unexpected, but still left Harry sputtering. Of course, once he'd been struck with a pillow, he had to retaliate. The resulting pillow fight stopped only when Hermione banged on the door again and shouted, "If you two don't knock off whatever you're doing in there, we're coming in and hexing the lot of you! Ginny's been practicing her Bat-Bogey again!"

"Sorry!" Harry and Neville called in unison, then collapsed into quiet laughter.

ooOOooOOoo

It was a contrite duo who joined the rest of their friends, and Harry's children, to start the move. Harry found, to his surprise, that it wasn't as hard as he'd imagined it would be, at least not when he had so much help. Albus was very good at organizing and boxing things, and Ginny was as good at directing the move as she was at hexing bogeys.

The day flew by, and it felt like they'd only just started moving when everything was unpacked and in its new place in their new rooms. They were all lounging around the new living room, which was large enough for everyone plus about ten more people, when Hermione said, "Traditionally, in the Muggle world, the people who are moved are given pizza and beer."

Harry looked up from where he'd collapsed on the floor at Neville's feet and asked the most important question. "Do house elves know how to make pizza?"

Hermione blinked at him. She opened her mouth, then closed it with a frown. "I don't know," she said finally. "They never served it when we were students."

"You could ask them, Dad, couldn't you?" James asked.

Harry sighed. He didn't particularly want to move. Still, he lifted his fingers to snap for an elf, in spite of the look it would get him from Hermione, when there was a banging on the door. Harry frowned and lowered his hand. "Who…" he started.

Before he could move to find out, Teddy was up and at the door. He opened it, then Harry watched as his godson's face dropped into a fearsome scowl. "What do you want?" he snapped.

There was a moment of silence, and Harry wondered if whoever it was had gone away. Then he heard Lily say quietly, "I'd like to talk to my father, if that's okay?"

Teddy didn't move. "Depends. Are you going to be rotten to him?"

Harry was already getting up. "Teddy," he said quietly. "Let me talk to Lily."

Teddy scowled, but backed away from the door. Rather than making Lily come in and say whatever it was that she wanted to in front of everyone, Harry slipped outside and faced her with a small frown. "What is it, Lily?" he asked quietly.

His daughter's eyes were red-rimmed from crying, and her cheeks were flushed with color. If he didn't know better, he might have thought her drunk. "So you really moved in with him?" she asked, her voice tired and sad.

Harry sighed. "I did," he said. "I love Neville very much, and he and I are going to try our hardest to be happy together."

Lily's face fell even further, and her lips started to tremble. She blinked rapidly. "Why couldn't you have tried your hardest with Mum?" she asked, her voice choked.

"I tried very hard with your mother," Harry countered. "But she and I wanted two very different things out of life."

Lily sniffled a little, and Harry watched as the tears she'd been trying to blink back began to fall. "That's what Mum said too," she whispered through her tears. "Daddy, I'm so sorry!" she wailed, and darted forward. She flung her arms around him and squeezed him tightly. "I've been so awful to you, and to Professor Longbottom!"

Harry hesitated, then carefully wrapped his arms around her, too. "You really have," he said dryly, and winced when she thumped him on the chest. "You have," he said again, "But I love you anyway. And I know that this has been hard on you and your brothers, and I still love you so much, Lils."

"Do you think that Professor Longbottom will ever forgive me?" she asked. "Because I've been awful to him, too, and I know that he didn't deserve it, and I—"

"I think that if your father can forgive you, I can too," Neville said quietly. Harry wasn't sure when he'd joined them outside their rooms, but he was grateful that he had.

"And I do forgive you," Harry said firmly. He gripped Lily by the shoulders and pulled her back ever so slightly. "But Lily, are you sure that you're okay with this, now? I don't want there to be trouble later because you changed your mind."

Lily sniffed and shook her head. "Albus and James have both been telling me how stupid I've been, and I… I realized that they were right, and that I did a lot of really mean things because I was mad about you and Mum breaking up. I'm not going to start causing trouble again, Dad, I promise."

Harry tugged her back in for another hug. "Okay," he said. He kissed her forehead, then pulled back. "Do you want to join us for lunch?" he asked. "We were just trying to figure out what to eat."

Lily beamed at him. "Free food, and I didn't even have to do any of the moving? Of course I'll stay!"

ooOOooOOoo

Harry went to bed that night with his heart feeling lighter than he'd thought possible. He had his daughter back, had all of his children, and his friends, and he had Neville.

And as his partner curled around him that night, Harry thought that he was the happiest that he'd ever been. It wasn't that everything was suddenly perfect, because nothing was ever perfect. Molly still wasn't talking to him, he was still a wreck from the way things had been with the Dursleys, and Neville's grandmother was still awful.

But it was good, and Harry thought that was all that mattered.


A/N: And so it ends, this story that was originally only supposed to be a one-shot. It was originally supposed to be under 10,000 words, you know. You can all see how that turned out.

So, even though this is the end, there's a lot more that I could do in this universe, and I might write a few actual one-shots later (but no promises). Just in case I don't, I'd like you all to know that, at least in my head, Molly and Harry do eventually reconcile, and Neville becomes an honorary Weasley. Neville and his grandmother, however, likely remain at odds for the rest of her life.

I hope you all enjoyed the story!