Posted: 5 September, 2009

Disclaimer: I do not own anything in this story that is recognisable from the Harry Potter books, movies, etc. Everything else however (eg. story plot, original characters, etc.) stems from my own imagination and belongs to me. No copyright infringement is intended and I am not profiting financially from this story in any way.

Author's Note: This story was inspired by the scene at the end of Chapter 5 of my 'A Whole New World' story. I had a few people writing to make sure that the teasing between Harry and Neville wasn't serious, and it wasn't a prelude to slash. I reassured them that the two were just joking, but I began to wonder… what would it be like to write a story where there really was a Harry/Neville pairing? This was the result.

Chapter 1 - Saying Goodbye

Sometime in the not too distant future

Noise from behind him caused Harry to spin around, wand at the ready. He sighed, first with relief to see it was only Neville, and secondly with annoyance that the man was up and about when he should still be in bed.

"Neville," he scolded, concern in his eyes, as he jumped up to steady his friend. "What do you think you're doing?"

The blond huffed and rolled his eyes, even as he leant into the support.

"I may be weak Harry, but I'm not dead yet. I was bored out of my mind lying in that bed. I'd started naming the mouldy spots on the ceiling. First there was Ernest, and then Henry, then Clarissa, then Sue and Robert, and-"

"Alright, I get it!" And now Harry rolled his eyes, smiling despite himself. "You needed a change of scenery. I guess I'm finished here anyway."

At the last comment, the messy-haired man's tone had turned serious. His grip on Neville's elbow tightened, and he clenched his jaw, looking away. A hand on his shoulder turned his attention back to soft, understanding eyes.

"It's okay Harry. I'm the one who's choosing this, of my own free will."

"Hermione should have never invented it in the first place."

He tried to growl the words, but his anger was rather undermined by the fact that his bookish friend had met her end only four months previously. He and Hermione had grown apart, as she began standing by Ron during those times when the redhead's jealousy overcame his sense and he deserted Harry. He understood that as Ron's girlfriend, a certain amount of loyalty between the two was to be expected, but he'd never quite forgiven either of them for their fickle support. Despite that though, the death of first Ron then more recently Hermione had been a painful blow, and he missed them terribly. And as a result, his anger at the woman was half hearted at best.

"She never intended for us to see it, you know that," Neville pointed out. "The notes were well hidden. It's only chance we found them."

"Still …"

"Look, what are our alternatives here? Honestly Harry. You wait the few months it'll take for me to finally die or-"

"You don't know that!"

"No one has ever survived the curse."

"But you're still here, four months later."

"It's slow acting. You know this," was the patient reply.

Harry sighed and slumped forward to lean his forehead against Neville's shoulder, feeling the hand on his own shoulder tighten.

"I know," he said defeatedly. "But as the Muggle say: 'where there's life, there's hope'."

"Exactly. I'm still alive, but not for much longer. My hope is to give you a new beginning; one where half of Wizarding Britain isn't decimated. I'll make it my 'last wish' if a guilt trip is what it'll take," he threatened in a light tone and received a half-hearted laugh.

"Okay," Harry nodded, pulling back to stand straight, looking down at his last friend's resolute face, and repeated, "Okay." He looked behind him to the two potions bubbling over a fire. "Let's go over this one more time. It's simple. You take the white potion. Then you-"

"Say the words, and then die," Neville said simply, softly, and Harry flinched.

"Die," he repeated in a whisper. "And I take seven drops of your blood, add it to the blue potion. It should turn red. Then I drink, say the words, and … and that's it. Simple."

"Hermione always was one for efficiency," Neville said and Harry nodded. "Promise me something."

"What?" Harry asked.

"We don't know how far this will take you. If you arrive before first year, don't let me flounder for nearly five years before finding myself." He looked directly into green eyes as he spoke. "I never would have if not for you, you know."

"Neville, sure you would have."

"No. It was your support and confidence in me that gave me confidence in myself," he said, willing his friend and leader to believe him.

Harry nodded slowly. "Okay, I promise. Not that I wasn't planning to make friends with you earlier anyway."

"Thank you. And also … since it's my last chance, I wanted you to know-" he halted, then looked away.

One hand was still on Harry's shoulder, partly to keep him upright, but Neville's free hand fidgeted nervously with the edge of his sleeve. He looked up at the taller Harry occasionally, opening his mouth to speak, before seeming to change his mind.

"Nev, what is it?" Harry asked concerned, and when still the other man dithered said, "Come on, spit it out. You're a Gryffindor," he joked, "don't think, just do."

A peculiar expression overcame Neville then, and he muttered "Just do," before nodding, face transforming to decisive resolve. The next thing Harry knew, the blond had leaned toward him, face raised, and chapped lips were pressed to his own. Green eyes blinked in shock before, surprisingly, fluttering. Before he had a chance to respond further – either positively or negatively – Neville was pulling away, cheeks flushed. He avoided Harry's eyes, instead concentrating on his chin, but his head was held high and proud.

"So," the blond said, voice almost steady, "let's get on with it."

And then, not waiting for aid, Neville broke away from his friend's support and staggered across the room, where he carefully measured out an amount of the white liquid and, before the other man could come to his senses, downed the poisonous liquid in a single gulp.

"Neville!" Harry exclaimed, rushing over to carefully lower the weakening man to the floor. "What were you thinking?"

But all he said was, "A life given freely," in a faint whisper, "that life may be lived again."

Neville was fading before his very eyes. It was too late. The idiot had started the ritual, and said his words, and now all that was left was to continue.

He looked down into fading blue eyes, feeling conflicted. Neville had kissed him. Neville had kissed him. Neville had kissed him. No matter how many times or ways he repeated the thought his surprise refused to wane. What did it mean though? He'd always been rubbish at this sort of thing. Did the other man like him? Love him?

As if in response, a paling hand rose tremblingly from the floor to cup his cheek, and fingers fluttered across his lips before it fell away, too weak to continue. Harry gasped, tears prickling his eyes. Right, well … that answered that question. Even someone as dim as him had to understand the tenderness of that gesture.

Looking down into hazy blue eyes he searched within himself, wondering how he felt, and if he returned the feelings. He wasn't sure, but staring at that face, and those lips, slowly becoming pale, he knew one thing. He wanted to kiss Neville back. And so he did. The lips beneath his own felt different this time: colder. He felt them turn up at the corners in a smile, before sighing and going still. He pulled back slowly and looked down. Blue eyes were glazed over with death, but there was a content smile on his last friend's face.

Feeling numb, Harry reached up for the dagger and vial set out on the bench. His movements were automatic as he raised Neville's cold hand, pricked a finger, and squeezed out seven drops of blood. Gently setting the hand back down, he rose to his feet and approached the second cauldron. He poured in the contents of the vial, watched dispassionately as blue turn into red, then measured out the liquid.

It was as he stood there, cup in hand, that emotion returned to him and he grit his teeth not to cry. No, he would not make any sound that might interfere with the ritual. Instead he would follow the steps, honouring Neville's sacrifice. He looked down at the cooling body, then lowered himself to sit beside it, clasping the pricked hand in his own, then, without pause, swallowed the sweet tasting red potion. He could feel it, a warm sensation travelling down his throat then spreading out along his veins to his very extremities.

"I accept this life, freely given, that my life may be lived again."

The warmth in his veins pulsed, once, then twice, then a third time. Then his vision dimmed, and he knew no more.

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