Posted: 1 October, 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.
Chapter 1 - At LongGood Nurseries
Harry Potter stepped into a greenhouse at LongGood Nurseries, bright green eyes glancing about at his surroundings. The building was populated with tropical magical flora and he shrugged off his cloak at the sudden rise in temperature and humidity. Looking around, a blond head was soon spotted behind a purple fern, and he headed over.
"There you go," the blond man was cooing to the large striped flower he was watering. "Drink up."
"Still talking to your plants then Nev?" he asked with amusement.
Neville's bowed head popped up and blues eyes widened upon seeing him. He hastily set down his watering can, tugged off his gloves, and strode forward to envelop the visitor in a hearty embrace.
"Harry!" he greeted cheerfully enough, though there was a slight furrowing of his brow that signified concern. "How are you?"
The blonde made a disbelieving sound, ushering Harry toward a door at the back of the greenhouse.
"You always say you're 'fine'," he said dismissively. "I know you better than to believe you."
They stepped through the door into a messy office. The temperature abruptly dropped back to normal, as they escaped the Climate Charmed glasshouse. Neville directed his guest to a seat on a worn looking sofa. He fetched a tea tray from an alcove half hidden by a flowering vine, before sitting down also.
"Two sugars, right?" he asked.
"Well you know what my memory's like," Neville defended, as he handed over the teacup and picked up his own. "It's always best to check."
He leaned back in his seat then and fixed Harry with a determined look. The dark haired man shifted nervously before sighing in defeat.
"Fine, ask what you want to know," he said, taking a sip of his tea.
"How are you really? I heard from Luna about your breakup with Ginny."
He winced. "What did she say? Is Ginny still angry?"
"No, Luna says she's just sad," he said, and Harry grimaced.
"I didn't want to hurt her."
"I know you wouldn't. What exactly happened?"
"You don't know?"
"I know what Luna told me she heard from Ginny," Neville said evenly, "but I want to hear it from you."
There was a moment of silence as Harry took another sip from his cup and contemplated his answer.
"I guess I just realised we're not as well matched as we hoped," he said.
"In what way?"
"We wanted different things. I hate all the fuss they've been making about me since Voldemort was defeated. All the dinners and balls and award ceremonies… I just wish I could fade into the background, you know?"
He nodded. "You've always hated your fame. Everyone who really knows you knows that."
"Exactly. I know you're a bit embarrassed about being a celebrity now yourself," he said, and as if in proof the blonde pinked a little. "And Hermione pretends to be above it, but secretly she's rather pleased with the recognition. Luna hardly notices the press. And Ron of course loves getting so much attention."
"I know," he smirked. "Did you see him on the cover of Witch Weekly last week?"
"Oh yeah: 'Britain's Sexiest Redhead Wizard'. He's still bragging about that," He rolled his eyes. "Hermione's having a hell of a time keeping his ego in check."
"No one better for the job though," Neville said and they shared a grin.
"And then there's Ginny," Harry said and sighed. "She flourishes under the limelight, Nev. You've seen her in the newspapers and magazines. Especially since she got that position on the Holyhead Harpies. They love her."
"She does deal really well with it all. She's the media's sweetheart."
"I know, she's a natural. And where I hate all the pomp and ceremony, Ginny loves it. We'd started having arguments about it all too. I just want to ignore all the invitations I get, but she always wants to go to every party. I want to just be me, but she's always trying to get me to dress a certain way and act a certain way in public. 'You never know who will be watching' she'd say." He took a deep gulp from his teacup. "And I just wanted to scream 'I don't care!'"
"I'm sure she doesn't mean any harm by it," Neville said hesitantly. "She cares about you just the way you are, I'm certain."
"Oh, I know that. If I'd though for a moment she was really trying to change me, I wouldn't have stayed with her so long. No, it's all just about fun to her, not anything serious – a game. But not a game I like playing. And I couldn't ask her to stop. How would that sound? Either quit enjoying your well earned fame, despite the fact that it makes you happy, or we're through."
"Like an unreasonable ultimatum."
He nodded. "Exactly. I wouldn't do that. So I sat down with her, and explained everything."
"And then broke up with her?" Neville finished, but Harry shook his head.
"Nope. She said she didn't really care that much about it all, and if I was uncomfortable, we could try the quiet life."
"Lasted a week and a half. We were having a little tiff because I used the last of the milk. Next thing I know," he explained, remembered bewilderment in his tone, "we're having a flaming row about how she doesn't get to do anything anymore, because I'm determined to 'become a hermit and drag her down with me'. She apologised when she calmed down of course, but…"
"It was too late?"
"Yep. I moved out next morning. She was flipping mad. Full on Weasley temper mode. But I think underneath she understood."
"Yeah," the blond man said, giving his friend's shoulder a supportive squeeze. "From what Luna said, she's not mad anymore. Sad and resigned more like. I think she must understand, because she told Luna she was sorry for setting your hair on fire."
Despite the sombre topic, Harry snorted, one hand going reflexively to his messy locks.
"Hermione brewed me a Burn Salve and Hair Growth Potion, so it's all back to normal at least."
"How did Ron react?"
"How do you think?" he said with a roll of his eyes.
"Lots of yelling and swearing about breaking his baby sister's heart, ignored you for a few days, then owled you with an awkward apology once Hermione beat some sense into him?"
Harry laughed and nodded at the accurate guess. Ron really was too predictable sometimes.
"And the rest of the Weasleys?" Neville asked.
"Molly and Arthur were disappointed, especially Molly, but they understood. The other brothers were a little angry at me but when I explained they decided to leave it between me and Ginny."
"You must be relieved."
"I was. I would have hated this to ruin things between me and the whole Weasley family. I was so relieved it didn't," he admitted, then changed the subject. "So, what about you Nev? How've you been? Is 'LongGood' doing well?" he asked, in reference to Neville and Luna's fledgling apothecary supplies company.
"I've been good," he said, enthusiasm in his voice. "And business is doing really well. All three greenhouses here are full and flourishing, and we're thinking about opening a fourth one. I'd love a nursery dedicated to winter climate plants."
"And Luna's half of it all?"
"She loves travelling around searching out creatures and getting ingredients from them."
"I've seen she's been writing about her 'adventures' for the Quibbler too."
"Yeah, she figures so long as she's off searching, she may as well write some articles for her dad. She's also started bringing 'pets' home. We've practically got a menagerie in our back garden now," Neville said, clearly trying to sound exasperated, but not quite succeeding. "We're seriously considering setting up a zoo of sorts in Hogsmeade. It'd practically pay for itself, with the potions ingredients, and the visitors fees."
"Wow," Harry said, though it was a little sad.
"What?" his friend asked, picking up on his mood immediately. "What's wrong."
"Nothing, I'm happy for you, really. It's just… well you two are doing so well. You've figured out what you want to do with your lives and you're doing it. And you and Luna have been together so long, everyone's expecting an engagement announcement anytime now," he smiled at Neville's blush. "I just feel like compared to you two, I'm nowhere. No job, no idea where I want to go or what I want to do, and no significant other anymore. Being constantly under the spotlight doesn't help much either."
Neville offered no platitudes in response. This was far too serious a confession from Harry to dismiss. Instead he got a thoughtful look on his face as he considered his friend's words.
"Alright," he said slowly, thinking as he spoke. "I'm not sure what I can do about the girlfriend thing. I doubt you'd want to be set up."
"No," he agreed immediately, nose wrinkling.
"So that leaves a job, or just something to occupy your time since you're well off enough already. So, what do you enjoy doing?"
When it became clear the blonde wanted a serious answer, Harry paused to consider.
"I like Quidditch I guess," he said, but added, "But, after seeing all the fuss they made over Ginny joining the Harpies…"
"You don't what the extra attention?"
"Well what else? You used to want to be an Auror didn't you?"
"Used to. Not anymore. I've had enough of fighting evil wizards to last me a lifetime."
"But what did you like about the job?"
"I guess partly because I thought I'd get the training I needed to defeat Voldemort. But also, to help people," he said.
Neville smiled and nodded in understanding – that sounded like Harry alright.
"That's part of what I liked about the DA so much too," the dark-haired man continued. "I was teaching people things that could help them."
"Have you considered teaching then?"
Harry blinked. "Like as a Professor or something?"
"Sure," he enthused, encouraged by the considering expression on his friend's face. "You'd be teaching – helping – kids learn what they need to know for life. And you're good at it."
Before Harry could respond, an obnoxious wailing sounded through the room. He followed his friend's actions by jumping to his feet, and then looked to the blond questioningly.
"Security alarm," Neville replied, sprinting from the room. "There's a thief in greenhouse three."
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