When Neville's gran dies, he is not surprised. She is old, she has seen her share of good and bad years, it is time. Still – it hurts. While the variables in his life have continuously realigned themselves over the years, one constant has always remained: his gran. Yes, it hurts a great deal to have the ground pulled out from under him like that and most of him doesn't know how to cope even while part of him whispers that he will be fine.
He doesn't know how they expect him to plan a funeral. For the life of him he doesn't know the protocol for things like this, despite having attended far too many funerals in the past few years. He stares blankly at tombstones and charmed flowers until the kindly funeral director suggests a few and he nods.
His life, once ordered and arranged by his gran is now a mess of variables and equations that he has never been taught how to solve. He doesn't even know where to begin so he goes home, makes some tea (Red Rose. Her favourite) and waters his plants while listening to soft symphonies played on the scratchy record player.
When he is done all he needs to do, he goes to call for his gran but it all comes flooding back to him before he can open his mouth. Overcome, he sits down on the floral chesterfield, spreads his palms in front of him and he cries, cradling his head in his hands.
He jumps at the bright sound of the harp signaling a visitor. Rubbing his eyes hastily he glances at the clock. It is seven. He hopes it isn't another person from the funeral home or Gringotts asking about life insurance. He almost doesn't answer it, but his gran taught him better manners so he gets up and goes to the door.
He almost stutters when he opens the door and finds Professor Lupin (former Professor, he scolds himself) standing there, a spider plant in his hands. It is suddenly as if all the colliding variables in his life stop shifting when he sees this quiet constant man standing in front of him. Neville is speechless for a moment before good manners take over and he invites Remus Lupin inside.
"I heard about your grandmother," Remus says with a kind smile. "I'm sorry."
Neville nods and takes the plant from Remus. He bustles around before he finds a plate to put it on and lets his thoughts settle. He is overwhelmed again but in an entirely different way.
"Thank you," he says once he comes out from the kitchen. Remus is sitting in an overstuffed blue floral armchair, flipping idly through the records resting in the holder on the floor.
"I'm sorry it's not as exotic as I'm sure you're used to," Remus says with an apologetic smile.
"No, it's – it's perfect," Neville says and sits down across from him.
"How are you?" Remus asks. He asks with his voice but he also asks in the way his gaze locks into Neville's and holds him still. It isn't a trivial question.
"I'm…" he gestures fruitlessly with his hands. Remus nods and Neville knows he understands, knows he has lost someone too. He knows Remus Lupin has lost many someones over the years: friends, a lover, and a wife.
"Would you like me to leave you or would you like tea?" Remus asks, studying Neville in that quiet way of his. Neville shifts in his chair before answering.
"Tea would be nice."
He starts to stand but Remus lays a hand on his arm, stilling him before wandering into the kitchen, leaving Neville sitting there bewildered. He stares at the little spider plant sitting the coffee table. Such strong plants, spider plants. If you neglect them they keep growing, they keep reproducing. They are survivors.
He blinks out of his thoughts when Remus comes back, levitating teacups, milk and sugar, and a kettle in front of him.
"Here we are," he says with a smile. He sits down, crosses his legs at the knee and taking his teacup in hand, looks at Neville expectantly. Neville picks up his teacup, takes a sip and tells Remus everything.
He tells him about the funeral arrangements, about the empty house, about how he misses Harry, Ron and Hermione but understands that they have important jobs and responsibilities. He talks about everything and nothing at all and Remus listens attentively and patiently, every once in a while commenting or smiling or reaching across to grab Neville's hand when he starts to cry.
"It's okay, you know."
"What is?" Neville asks, sniffling and wishing Remus wasn't holding his hand so he could wipe his teary eyes.
"It's okay to let go," Remus says gently and so Neville does. He lets strong arms engulf him and he lets go as he has never been able to before. He knows he's getting Remus' tweed jacket wet with his tears but he can't bring himself to care when Remus' hand is stroking the back of his head and shushing him softly.
pulls out of Remus' embrace after a moment, still sniffling and
risks glancing into his hazel eyes. On a whim, he leans forward and
catches Remus' lips with his own. He feels Remus inhale sharply
before he kisses him back. The kiss is brief, stopped by Remus'
hand on his chest, pushing him back gently.
"This isn't quite appropriate right now," Remus says softly and Neville turns his eyes downcast, at once embarrassed and ashamed.
"Neville," Remus says but Neville cannot look up. "Neville," he says again, "look at me."
Neville raises his gaze and meets Remus' eyes.
"It is not appropriate right now because you are grieving. I would feel as if I were taking advantage," Remus explains.
"You mean…" Neville starts and Remus nods, smiling slightly.
"You aren't going to try and tell me you're too old or anything?" Neville asks, slightly surprised.
Remus looks away for a moment before turning back to Neville. "I have learned that life is too short for such… excuses. We are all old one day, aren't we?"
"Yes we are," Neville agrees and takes Remus' hands in his own. Remus smiles shyly and Neville feels all the variables click into place.