Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter or any of its contents, and I'm not making any money off this.
Warnings: Slash, drabbles, language uselessness.
A/N: This is a redrabbled version of an extremely old story. Proceed with caution.
Fate's a bitch. Or life, maybe. There's no one else in the back of the library, not this late. Of all the people to come by, it has to be the one that's cruel enough to slither up to Neville's table, demanding coldly, "Get out of my seat, Longbottom."
Neville looks up. The desk is small and tucked away in the back – the only desk out of everyone's line of sight. The only one that's actually as quiet as Madam Pince would like the library to be. Neville sits here whenever he can, although he isn't egocentric enough to think that makes it his.
Draco Malfoy must think different. When Neville doesn't move, Draco's frown twists into a scowl – his gray eyes have heavy circles under them. It's late and he looks tired, like he should pick his battles better. Neville glances inconspicuously around Draco – Crabbe and Goyle aren't with him. They haven't been as glued together this year as usual. Draco repeats firmly, "Did you hear me? Get out of my seat, you stupid squib."
He wouldn't dare talk that way to Harry or Ron – not without backup. But apparently Neville doesn't get the same respect (fear) that other Gryffindors yet. It isn't fair – he isn't the sniveling, terrified bundle of nerves he was in first year.
He isn't a hero either, though. Draco looks ready to hex him. Neville glances dejectedly down at his desk, as if saying goodbye, and then he gets slowly to his feet. Draco takes the chair without saying 'thank you,' brushing Neville's shoulder as he passes. Neville shivers.
He pulls out the other, lone chair at the other end of the table, and sits back down. Draco looks up at him, disbelieving.
Neville reopens his book and continues taking notes, pretending he isn't unnerved. He isn't in first year anymore, and he doesn't want to put up with this. Draco scowls but doesn't pursue it. Without his cronies, Draco isn't much stronger than Neville. That's saying something.
At first Neville expects Draco to give up and leave; Draco seems to be waiting for him to do the same.
They end up reading in a silence, in an odd sort of unspoken double dare. Eventually Neville falls asleep sitting up, and when he wakes up there's a green scrawl all across his notes, reading, 'Don't sit in my desk anymore.' Neville frowns – those notes took him hours.
Draco's on Neville's radar now – he wasn't before. It might work the other way around. He's been quieter, this year, or at least, he's been quieter to Neville. He doesn't snicker in Potions class as much or chuck insults across the Great Hall, not unless provoked. Maybe he's growing up, like Neville's trying to.
Or maybe the war's getting to him, like it's getting to everyone. The next time they're together is in Herbology. Suddenly Draco's a different creature – everything Neville does is wrong. Except that Herbology's the only thing Neville's good at. Draco tries to tell Neville that he's ruining their Fanged Geraniums. Neville got his first 'O' ever on these last year, but doesn't have the nerve to say it.
So he lets Draco ruin them, and he takes the blame, and he thinks he wants to make sure he gets partnered with someone else next class. Draco has warm, delicate hands, that look too aristocratic to be in the dirt. He lets Neville do most of it. With a deep-set sneer, he eventually lets Neville fix it, towards the end of the hour. Neville gets them a new pot and starts over, and Draco just sits back, muttering, "You clumsy idiot, you're going to fail us."
Neville shrugs and tries to look apologetic enough that he won't actually have to say sorry. Appeasing Draco is easier than fighting him. Obviously, Harry and Ron's techniques don't work – they've never struck peace.
The last ten minutes are close enough. Draco sits back and lets Neville grow their plant into something beautiful. In the next hour of Potions he's slightly less nasty.
They're sort of on a speaking basis. Neville runs across Draco in a mostly empty courtyard, trying to transfigure a rock into a shield. Transfiguration homework. Neville did that in the D.A. last year. It was hard, at first, but he managed.
He tells Draco to stop flicking his wrist so much – Draco turns around and scowls. Draco's always scowling – it makes him look sharper than he is. He hisses, "Fuck off," and turns back around.
When Neville tries to walk away, Draco growls in frustration, "How do you do this stupid thing?"
Neville walks back to show him – he sees that Draco looks around to make sure they're alone. Somehow, Neville's apparently still social suicide, even though his father isn't in Azkaban, there's very little chance he's a Death Eater, and he's semi-friends with a celebrity.
Neville demonstrates with his own wand and blushes when the grass erupts around the rock. He overshot. He tries again, and it works. His shield's lumpy and odd-looking, but it looks more like steel than stone.
Draco practices alone, most days. When he flies at all. The team doesn't seem too happy with him; he loses to Harry too often. Neville's sort of torn. He sees the pain on Draco's face with every loss, but he still wants Gryffindor to win. Badly. If he can't be something, at least his House can. He vicariously lives through it, and finds himself more patriotic than logic warrants. He doesn't even play Quidditch.
He was collecting more Gillyweed at the lake for some extra credit – if he can't pass Charms he can at least make sure to ace his best subject – when he saw Draco heading for the pitch.
He doesn't have anything better to do or anyone else to hang out with. No more than Draco does. He does his D.A.D.A. essay in the stands – looking up every once in awhile. Pansy Parkinson shows up for a bit – she leaves when she gets bored. There's a span of time where the stands are just Neville, and he watches.
Draco lands on the field still panting, painted in a thin sheen of sweat. He looks frustrated and disappointed, and his soft hair is plastered to his forehead, getting in his eyes. He didn't bother to change – his regular Slytherin pants and shirt cling to his lithe frame attractively. He looks simultaneously handsome and a wreck, and watching Draco ride a broom does strange things to Neville's stomach. He thinks he and Parkinson might not be that different – a sentiment Neville never thought he'd have.
Neville doesn't really meet Draco; he walks away in the same direction. Draco catches up to him, snarling, "Wrong team, Gryffindork."
Neville debates lying: perhaps saying he's gathering information for his housemates. Instead he just shrugs and awkwardly mutters, "Good practice."
Draco blinks like Neville just spoke Korean. Then he grumbles, "Get a life, you fag," and slinks off towards the change room. Neville watches him leave, blushing like an idiot.
In the next Herbology lesson, Neville pretends to be as stupid as Draco thinks he is, and sits back while Draco strains to fish writhing roots out of the earth. Draco's glare makes Neville's chest constrict. Draco isn't good at it – he works himself into a fury trying to pass. By the end of the lesson it looks like there might be tears in the corner of his eyes – Neville feels like they've suddenly switched places.
Draco gets detention for ruining their plant. He blames Neville, Neville doesn't stand up for himself, and Neville gets detention, too.
The sun is low over the glass of the greenhouse, distorted through the cracks all the dangerous plants have made. It glitters across Draco's face as he presses into Neville – there isn't any space between them.
"You're a fucking idiot," Draco drawls, and his fingers tremble as he holds Neville's sides.
Neville says, "Shut up," because he already ignored the first few meaningless insults. His breath is coming with difficulty – one of Draco's legs is between his. Neville's back is to the wall, and it doesn't feel sturdy enough. He thinks if they fight again they might burst through it – tumble clean to the other side. Neville's arms are around Draco's body, one against his hip and one over his shoulders. Draco's so thin and frail in Neville's arms; it's hard for Neville to understand we he used to be so scared of this boy.
Draco shakes his head, muttering, "No, I mean it – this isn't... I don't..." Neville shuts him up with a kiss – Draco meets him halfway.
They make out in the middle, Draco rutting forward just as fervently. His thigh rubs against Neville's crotch, and his fingers curl in Neville's sweater, and when Neville tries to pull back for air, Draco just follows him. Draco tastes like the cranberry juice he had at the feast: a flavour Neville never liked before. Now it's his favourite, and he soothingly rubs the back of Draco's neck while their tongues fight between them.
Neville doesn't know what this is, either. It's one of those things that just happened – another punch to roll with. When they finally separate, panting and needy, Draco murmurs, "You're nothing, and I don't even like you."
Neville looks at Draco like a sapling that can't take the sudden cold of winter, and he mumbles, "We should go out sometime." He thinks hanging out with Luna might be bad for his conversation skills.
Draco scrunches his eyes closed and leans his forehead against Neville's. He hisses, "I don't like you." It sounds like he's trying to convince himself.
It isn't new, but it still hurts.
Neville puts up with a lot of shit. Draco always leaves when they're done, and he gets furious whenever Neville tries to say something meaningful, and he calls Neville a 'filthy blood traitor' a few times. Neville shrugs off a lot and steels other times. They walk apart in the corridors and won't look at each other across the Great Hall, and once Neville gets pulled into an abandoned classroom so Draco can unload to him. He has so many expectations on him, apparently, and he isn't living up to any of them. Someone's disappointed and someone's in danger. He doesn't quite open up to Neville, just shouts generalities. He kicks a chair over, and then he falls to the floor, curling up and covering his face with his hands.
Neville wonders distantly if Draco has any real friends – if there's anyone else he can talk to. He looks like he's crumbling under Atlas' burden, and when Neville tries to be there for him Draco sneers, "I don't need you. Don't think you're special. I'm out of your league and you just happen to be there."
Neville does think Draco's out of his league. Draco's gorgeous, even when he's sad. He's intelligent when he isn't being petty, and he's funny when he isn't being an asshole. He's bringing up Neville's Potions grade, and he's stopped trying to physically push Neville around when they fuck.
He lies still and lets Neville take him, and he trembles when Neville pulls back, and he holds Neville tight enough to bruise. He stays with Neville longer every time, and he comes to Neville when he needs... someone.
But he's still an asshole, and Neville sits down across from him, mumbling, "You're full of shit, Malfoy."
Draco winces like he's been punched. His back's to the legs of a desk, arms around his knees. He sniffs. He looks at Neville like he wants to know what this is, but Neville can't answer him.
Neville doesn't know, either.
They sneak out to the Hog's Head – Neville's ten minutes late with flushed cheeks and an apology. He stumbles into his seat – it's hard and lumpy. Adjusting, he grumbles, "I like the Three Broomsticks better."
Draco says, "I know, but I don't want to be seen with you." Neville shrugs off his winter robes and scarf, peeling away his gloves.
Draco doesn't ask what Neville would like to drink – a few minutes later two Butterbeers are shoved onto their table. Draco pays without hesitation. Neville mumbles, "Thanks." And he chokes on his first sip – ungraceful as ever.
Draco rolls his eyes. Neville lets the smooth liquid warm his skin, and then he works up his nerves – he puts his hand over Draco's. There's a bit of dirt under Draco's usually pristine nails – remnants of the garden. His grey eyes dart up, and he grunts, shakily, as though he doesn't believe it himself, "I think you're clumsy and foolish and unpopular."
Neville nods and says, "I know." Draco's a bitch, but Neville doesn't say that. Instead he says, "I really like you, anyway."
"I know." After a minute, Draco leans back in his seat, his fingers sliding out from under Neville's. He looks at Neville levelly, his handsome features frowning. Then he says, very slowly, "...But you're growing on me."
Neville grins. He hasn't smiled in a while, and at first it feels sort of strange. There's a war in motion, and nobody smiles.
Draco looks like he wants to but doesn't know how yet.
Draco's foot brushes his under the table.
For the first time in years, Neville thinks things might turn out okay.