Disclaimer: I do not own HP.
AN: This is first in a series of unrelated holiday fics focusing on interhouse couples.
Gold and Green
And everything looks better in gold and green
The lights on the trees in the eyes of our children
Are the prettiest I've ever seen
Neville looked up to find a pair of wide, dark eyes staring at him. He'd heard the girl coming nearly a quarter of an hour ago, though he was surprised she was so young. There was a Muggle town a few nearby; it was far by road but to a child used to playing in the countryside it wouldn't be far.
"Neville," he said. He stopped his work and rested the tips of his fingers against the cold snow to keep him from wavering in his squat. "Who're you?"
Neville jumped in surprise and fell, landing in the snow with a plop. Wincing more at the thought of his now-wet backside than any real pain, he looked up into the trees. A boy with dark eyes to match his sister's hung upside-down from one of the bare branches. Him, Neville hadn't heard coming.
"Nice to meet you, Heath."
Prim bent over the hole Neville had been digging in the snow. "What are you doing?"
Heath dropped from the tree, nearly giving Neville a heart attack until he realized the boy was unharmed. He knelt down beside his sister. Their twin blond heads bent over the hole, looking intently for whatever was at the bottom of the hole.
In an instant Neville decided, especially at this time of year, it wouldn't do too much harm to tell these children the truth. "Digging for ice flowers. They only bloom beneath the snow in the dead of winter. Wanna help me dig?"
The children nodded eagerly and Neville pointed them towards spots where other flowers were likely to be. Heath dug like a dog in the snow, shoveling the snow through his legs so that he missed the flower entirely. Unconcerned, he began building a snowman with the pile he'd made. His sister watched Neville dig and carefully emulated his actions, ultimately digging up a delicate ice flower. Neville praised her accomplishment and added her flower to his collection in a specially made glass box.
"It'll keep it from melting," he assured her. She touched the colored glass of the box reverently and for the first time Neville noticed how thin her coat was, how the boots she wore were at least two sizes too big.
"I'm hungry!" Heath proclaimed.
Neville offered him a piece of Hagrid's jerky. Heath wrinkled his nose at it. The gesture accentuated his already turned up nose and gave Neville pause. For a moment the boy looked familiar, like someone Neville had known long ago, but he couldn't think who.
"I don't blame you," he said, shaking off the feeling. "I'm not actually sure what kind of meat it is." He began to put it back in his pocket but Heath grabbed it quickly from his hand. He broke it in half, shoving one piece into his mouth and hording the other in his pocket.
Pretending not to see, Neville glanced up at the trees, taking note of the waning sunlight. "Shouldn't you two be getting home?"
The twins shared a horrified look and ran into the trees. After a moment Neville ran after them.
"Why are we running?" he panted when he caught up. He wasn't as fit as he once was and he could already feel a stitch forming in his side.
"Mom!" Prim gasped.
"Mad!" Heath yelled.
Neville understood. If they were late getting home, they'd be in trouble.
They lived closer than Neville thought, in a small house with faded yellow paint. One of the front shudders was on the ground, leaning against the side of the house. An entire section of the fence, longer than a man was tall, was falling down. Patchwork quilts covered one end of the yard, protecting the garden from frost.
Neville stood outside the gate, catching his breath and wondering when he stopped being able to run without getting this tightness in his chest. He'd planned on leaving now he knew the children were home safe, but Prim emerged from the house. She grabbed his hand and began dragging him along behind her.
"Primrose!" a woman's voice called from within the house. "What are you doing outside?"
"This is Neville!" Prim said as they entered the house. Neville blinked rapidly while his eyes adjusted to the shadows. "He showed us how to dig up ice flowers!"
Neville's vision cleared just as Prim's mother looked up from untangling Heath from his jacket. Neville realized now who Heath had reminded him of. Seeing him next to his mother it was painfully obvious that he was Pansy Parkinson's son. Her grip on Heath's shoulder tightened until he cried out. She tore her eyes away from Neville to smile apologetically at him and sent him on his way to his room.
"Bye, Neville!" the twins chorused.
"Well," Pansy said. Her robes were threadbare and hung loose on a frame that had once been much fuller.
Neville shifted uncomfortably and searched for something to say. "They're beautiful," he finally said, meaning the children.
Despite herself, a smile tugged at Pansy's lips. "Thank you. You didn't know they were mine."
"I didn't know you had children at all," Neville confessed. The last he'd heard of Pansy Parkinson had been a mention of her breaking down crying when her father was sentenced and that he only knew because his grandmother felt, since he wasn't reading the reports on the Death Eater trials himself, she needed to keep him apprised.
"Well now you do," Pansy said briskly. "You can go tell all your friends how far Pug-faced Parkinson's fallen. I'm sure Granger especially will be happy to hear about the chipped tea cups and leaking roof."
Anger welled up in Neville. It was on the tip of his tongue to defend his friend until he saw the faint shimmer in Pansy's eyes. He turned on his heel and left the house, all but running from Pansy Parkinson's tears.
Neville spent the next three days going over every detail of the encounter. He didn't need a Penseive to remember the deep shadow of Pansy's collarbone jutting out from beneath the collar of robes that were too big or the chalk outline of a Christmas tree on the wall beside the fireplace.
He asked around, utterly failing at being casual. It was Minerva McGonagall who told him about Pansy's husband, one of the Drumstrang boys who visited in their fourth year. McGonagall didn't know anything about their relationship except that when he'd died only two years into their marriage his family used a nasty bit of legal trickery to keep his money away from the children Pansy carried.
"But she had her own money," Neville said.
"I'm afraid not," McGonagall said, a note of pity in her voice. "Most of her father's estate was seized by the Ministry. Oh, they claim they'll return it a few generations down the line, when they no longer have to fear the money is being used for 'nefarious purposes' but I think we all know how likely that is. Not that it would do any good now. The poor thing was left to find her own way in the world. I don't know whatever became of her but her children's names are still down in our books - four more years, I think it is - so they must be doing well enough."
Well enough wasn't very well at all in this case. Neville knew what he wanted to do but there was no way Pansy Parkinson would accept his charity. He looked hopelessly about his tiny office, wishing he could find the answer in one of his many plants. It was not a plant that gave him the idea, but the remains of one and the three empty squares of the calendar between today and Christmas.
Pansy smiled at the sound. There was no more joyous noise than her two children speaking at once.
"Yes, sweethearts?" she asked, rolling over. Prim and Heath bounced on the bed the three of them shared, both no doubt eager for Christmas celebrations to begin. They'd never think it sad and small, they'd never enjoyed the lavish Christmases she'd known as a child. She wasn't sure if this was a blessing or a curse. As for herself, the smiles on their faces were all the presents she wanted. So long as she could keep them happy, she knew she wasn't failing.
"It's beautiful, mama!"
The twins each took one of her hands and pulled her from the bed. She tried to pull free of at least one so she could wrap the blanket around herself as she went. Except, she realized suddenly, it wasn't cold outside the comfort of the bed. It was warm, in fact. As she was dragged the few steps to their kitchen she smelled Christmas - turkey and cookies and spices - and no wonder since a feast sat on her kitchen table. It was less than the Weasleys would eat to be certain but far more than her tiny family had eaten in months. The children seemed unconcerned with this though and continued dragging her through the door to see the Christmas tree that seemed to have sprouted in the middle of her front walk overnight, decorations and all.
As the children began dancing around the tree Pansy lifted a shaking hand to pinch herself.
"It's real," she breathed when the scene continued to play out before her. She wanted to be angry but with her children laughing, the smell of a warm meal, and the sparkling decorations all around, she really couldn't manage it. She blinking away tears, the gold and green, red and silver blurring together.
"Mama! Come on!"
Breaking free of her shock, Pansy jumped into the largest of three brand new pairs of boots beside the door before running after her children.
A non-descript, official post owl pecked at Neville's window that night. The letter it held was short but far more than Neville had expected.
Overwhelming us with your kindness, knowing there was no way I could refuse it, especially on a day the children expect miracles, was almost Slytherin of you. I'm truly impressed.
Feel free to visit. I'm sure Heath and Prim would love to go ice flower digging again and we have enough food to last through New Year's.
At the very bottom edge of the slip of paper, in tiny letters beneath the signature, was a thank you Neville had never expected to get or earn. It was the best present he'd received in years.