Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter. Duh!

AN: Thank you to frog8590, Chris, and Fraulien Lovegood for your reviews. Thanks for the favorites and/or follows, too.

The subtle description of the moors around Neville's house is borrowed from Vera Rozalsky's Amends, or Truth and Reconciliation (see my favorites), but all other descriptions of the house are my own imagination.

Chapter Twenty-Three - Neville's House

Neville's house was absolutely breathtaking.

The only true Wizarding house I had ever been to was the Burrow, which certainly had its own charm, yes. But Neville's house was so different by comparison that it really couldn't be compared. We arrived by floo and once we had stepped into his kitchen, I felt like I had stepped into another time. It was chilly and I pulled my coat closer to me, despite the fire in the hearth.

Neville wasn't lying when he said his house was old, but it was more like ancient – there was nothing in his kitchen that wasn't less than fifty years old, not a piece of glassware or art, and I looked around with interest. He was standing next to me rather stiffly, and said that his Gran was at the Ministry and wouldn't be back until at least suppertime.

I asked him if we could see it from the outside, and he obliged. We walked out of the kitchen together, down a hallway lined with portraits that pointed at me and whispered. It was unnerving, but I tried to ignore it.

When Neville said that he lived in the country, what he really meant to say was he lived in absolute seclusion. His house was made of red brick and had vines growing on the walls, and across the doorframe and above the windows. It wasn't exactly a cottage, but it wasn't an imposing mansion, either. It looked as timeless as the countryside itself – I thought we were in Yorkshire, with the way the hills rolled beyond to the horizon, covered in snow, with shrubs and trees contrasting starkly against the bright whiteness.

"Do you like it?" Neville asked me, apprehensively.

"I love it," I replied, and I tilted my head to kiss him, ignoring how the weather seemed to want us to go inside; the wind burned my cheeks and blew my hair in all sorts of directions.

"Are you hungry?" he asked when we parted.

I smiled. "Actually, I am."

We went inside to have what Neville called a snack, although it seemed more like a meal to me. Cucumber sandwiches, cookies, and sliced fruit were enjoyed and we ate in silence.

My mind began to wander toward the meeting in Dumbledore's office the night before. I looked over at Neville and wondered if I should tell him about McGonagall's words about considering my options.

"What's wrong?" Neville asked, always paying attention.

"Nothing, I-" I stopped, not entirely sure what I was going to say. And then my mind raced toward another thought: what if marriage was what Neville was considering all along? This visit could be a sort of meet the parents gesture, and I wouldn't know that because Neville surely came from a long line of witches and wizards and most likely they had their own way of doing things, wouldn't they? And I wouldn't know, because I'm Muggleborn. This caused me to fall into a state of panic, because I was only just 18 and what if I wasn't ready for all of that? The people in this world seemed to marry young, but what if I wasn't ready?

"Woah – Hermione."

Neville's voice snapped into my conscious, and then I heard the blunt scrape of the chair across the floor. And then: a warm embrace, albeit an awkward one, because I was sitting and he was standing above me.

"I'm sorry," I said.

"You looked like you'd seen a ghost," Neville replied, but didn't push it. That's what I liked most about him, I think. He always let me take my time.

I stood up to hug him properly, and the feel of his body against mine distracted me from all other line of thought, which in turn caused a particular part of my body to be distracted.

But it wasn't the time.

"How about a tour?" I asked, and he nodded. He took my hand and led me out of the kitchen.

He showed me the dining room, which he said was rarely used; the sitting room, where he said he and his Gran would spend time together; the room I would be sleeping in, the loo. Every piece of his house had history – every time I asked a question about a particular piece of furniture or art, he had a story to tell. He was obviously very fond of his house and it showed in the way he spoke. This was the house he grew up in, and he had known nothing else.

The last room of the tour, and Neville stopped. It is obvious he was hesitating because it was his room. I smiled and opened the door.

Neville's room had much the same layout as the guest room I would be sleeping in; the big bed, the wardrobe, the chair by the window. Except his room showed more signs of life: random piles of books, even a set of school robes folded neatly at the foot of his bed. I don't know what I was expecting; perhaps a lot of plants, or a mess. But it wouldn't do to leave a bunch of plants to fend for themselves while he went to school, I supposed.

My eyes landed on a picture on his nightstand, and I walked over to it and picked it up.

"My parents," Neville said quietly.

The man and woman in the picture were very young, and full of life. They looked happy, and were standing in front of the house, his mother beaming and holding a baby, presumably Neville, and his father had an arm around her.

"From before," Neville said, and took the picture from me to look at it himself. He had a strange distant expression on his face, and he set it carefully down on the nightstand.

"That time, when you asked me if I ever wished I could be someone else, I wasn't really thinking. I was more surprised that you asked me that at all and I said Harry without even using my head. If I had the choice, I'd want to be a normal kid, with parents who loved me."

I looked at him, but couldn't trust myself to speak.

"Gran will be expecting me to visit St. Mungo's, but if you would rather not…"

I found my voice. "No, Neville, I would be honored to go."

Neville nodded, and then shrugged.

"Well, that's the end of the tour, then."

Unspoken implication. I was suddenly very aware of the stillness of the house; we were completely alone and would be for another couple of hours. I sat on his bed and gestured for him to join me.

He only hesitated for a moment and then sat down. I leaned over to kiss him softly, much like the very first kiss we ever had in the Gryffindor Common Room. I could tell he was nervous; this was the first time we had ever been alone like this, without teachers or other students or curfews to worry about. I pulled back and saw him looking at me, searching my face as if trying to figure out my mood.

"We're alone," I said, rather unnecessarily given the circumstances, but I wanted to say it out loud.

He didn't reply, but he kept watching me, pupils dilated. Deciding to be brave, I moved over and got in his lap so I was facing him. And then I kissed him again, no longer soft or chaste, no – I wanted this to go further than that. The time for innocence is gone, and we could never get the opportunity again.

His hands were on my upper arms, right where the muscle met bone, a soft grip. I kissed him and moved down his neck, and then up again, he tilted his head like a cat to receive the touch.

I pushed him backward so he was lying on the bed. He looked at me in surprise, but once I lay down on top of him with my leg right there, that look changed entirely.

"Ah-" came Neville's voice, a soft sound between a cry and a moan that he tried to stifle but couldn't; for whatever he was feeling was too overwhelming to silence entirely. I kissed him again and this time he had his hands in my hair, thoroughly tangling it even more than it already was.

Ginny had said that that part was sensitive and reacted to all sorts of touch. But now that I had a living and breathing Neville beneath me, it seemed almost ridiculous to consider doing any of the things she described to him. The image of Neville I had in my mind, though, contrasted sharply to what was actually there now. He was breathing like he had no control over his lungs, his hands were travelling down my back and up again and yes, he pushed me down on him and moaned again.

I pulled back and saw his face; it was absolutely nothing less than desire. His eyes were closed and his mouth was parted slightly. I took a finger and slowly dragged it over his lips, I watched his mouth close and then open again, his chin tilted up, and I could feel his breath on my fingertip.

All of this was so arousing but our height difference made it impossible for me to push my hips into his body and get any real friction. I sat up and settled myself down right at the tops of his thighs, and ran my hands down his shirt and stopped right at the waistband of his corduroys.

"Can I…" I said, feeling his warm skin right before the fabric of his pants started.

"Yes. Please. Anything."

So, I began to unbutton his pants, and I started to feel very nervous as I did so. Neville reached up to help me pull his pants down, and when he was finally free of the fabric, I had the sudden instinct to look away.

There was an awkward silence. Neville wasn't quite looking at me; I saw a blush creep over his face as if he expected me to be disgusted and walk away, or maybe even laugh at him, I don't know.

"Show me what to do," I said. "I've…never done this before."

He looked at me and grinned a little.

"Me neither."

And so, he took my hand and put it on him, which was very warm and surprisingly soft to the touch; it was such an interesting sensation I giggled and he faltered a little.

"No, it's just…I didn't know what to expect," I said quickly. "Please, show me."

Neville guided me at first, but after a moment his hand dropped to his side and started gripping the sheets. I wasn't entirely sure what I was doing but his reactions were enough. His hips were jerking and his breath was ragged; it was enough to send my mind into a state of thought that wasn't even cognitive anymore. I couldn't help but start to wonder what it would feel like for him to be inside of me and this thought caused me to jerk my hips too, although it was frustrating because there was nothing to push onto because I was still sitting on his thighs.

And suddenly, I heard his breath change, and saw his body shutter. The sounds coming out of his mouth were coming out in such quick succession, the next sound seemed to come out before the previous one was even done, and I felt him try to arch his hips regardless of all my weight resting on him.

What happened next was a little awkward for both of us, but I didn't move and watched Neville regain normal control over his breathing and he opened his eyes and looked at me with a cute little smile on his face, blush and all.

He pulled his wand out from his sleeve and Vanished the mess, and I got off of him so he could pull his pants back on.

"I'm sorry," he said, lying back down. "There's that to deal with."

"It's not your fault," I replied, grinning despite myself. "Did you like it?"

Neville laughed. "That was incredible." He turned his head to look at me. "Now it's your turn."

My breath hitched in my throat; I wasn't really expecting that. He usually isn't so bold and I lay down on a pillow, unsure what to expect. He pulled himself over so he was next to me.

"I don't know what to do either," he said, a tentative hand resting on my belly.

I leaned over to kiss him, running a hand through his thick hair. Neville sighed into the kiss; maybe he was holding a breath all this time. I pulled back and bit his ear for good measure. He startled, and then we both giggled.

"Don't be nervous," I breathed, even though I myself was still nervous – I had never had a boy touch me there. I lifted my back to unzip my skirt and slid it down, kicking it off. Neville fingered the band of my knickers, cautiously, and I realized that it would probably be easier if I took them off, but I wasn't sure I was ready to.

"I can't help it," he said. "I've never done this before, either."

"Here," I said, and took his hand and guided it under my knickers until he was there. I couldn't breathe; I could only concentrate on the pressure, and decided to abandon it all and pulled my knickers down to my ankles.

Now it was my turn to be embarrassed. I understood why Neville didn't look at me at the initial reveal; there was something so vulnerable about it. I finally met his eyes and put my hand over his to show him what to do. After a moment, I let go and let him take control.

"Oh -"

The sound had escaped my lips before I could even control it; having someone else do this to me was incredible. He was a little awkward at first, but he seemed to be figuring what to do by my reactions.

It didn't take very long, no, not at all, before I was pushed over the edge. I clamped a hand over my mouth to stop myself from yelling out; it was such an intense feeling and I was only vaguely aware of my hips arching higher and higher, although I didn't think to be embarrassed because I couldn't think about anything else but the pleasure.

I lay still for a moment, unsure what to do. I sighed, a content sound, and turned my head to smile at Neville who was watching me silently, but I saw he was grinning, so I grinned too.

"That was…great," I said, a little breathlessly.

"Really?" he asked, perking up at the compliment.

I went to retrieve my clothing and made myself decent. I felt a little awkward to be so exposed after the excitement had gone down.

"Yes. We'll have to try that again sometime," I said. I looked at him again, almost in a new light: this had completely changed my perception of Neville, but only just, for when I saw the way he was laying against his pillow, his face soft and a strange look of wonder there, I saw the boy I knew all along.

Neville got out of bed and stood up, and ran a hand through his hair.

"Fancy a game of chess? Gran won't be back for another hour at least."

I nodded, and he took my hand, and we made our way down into the sitting room. He retrieved a very old set of chess, but I couldn't help but notice it was Muggle made and not Wizarding. It was all made of silver and gold, with four legs like a table made of intricately designed golden rearing horses; the pieces were just as ornate and very heavy to the touch.

"This is beautiful," I breathed. "And Muggle too?"

"It's been in the family for generations," Neville replied. "It's probably one of my favorite things in the house. It was my dad's, and now it's mine."

And without a further word, we began to play.

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