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Neville had always been, well-

“Soft,” his grandmother said, not unkindly, but not kindly either.

“Wet around the ears,” his great uncle Algie had said, unkindly.

“The Gryffindor Goyle,” according to one professor who shall not be named, in one of his less kind moments. That one had stung particularly, knowing as Neville did that he had very little in common with Gregory Goyle other than his size, which wasn’t even to mention the fact that Goyle was twice his size and could easily trounce him physically. And had, in fact.

Many times, to be perfectly honest about it.

Still, there was the look of commiseration Crabbe and Goyle sometimes gave him as they passed each other out of the Great Hall after breakfast. Crabbe often still had pudding on the corners of his lips and Goyle was wiping orange juice from his chin with the bottom of his shirt, exposing a fleshy, corpulent stomach that sometimes made girls choke out reluctant, uncomfortable laughter.

Is that what people think I look like? Neville would think, feeling his the tips of his ears get red and unable to do anything about it.

Because the fact of the matter was, Crabbe and Goyle were fat, and so was he, and this was all they had in common but sometimes in Neville’s darker moments he felt a greater sense of sympathy with his fat compatriots than he ever did with his fellow Quidditch playing Gryffindors.

No, Hogwarts had not been kind to those who weren’t lanky, or slender, or bone thin, or wisp-like or ethereal or Harry Potter and his friends.

Some days Neville counted as one of Harry Potter’s friends and some days he didn’t.

He feared he was the pathetic charity case they toted around with them as proof of their everlasting goodness. Look, Hermione isn’t too busy with schoolwork to be kind! Look, Ron isn’t too preoccupied with visions of greatness to lend a fat friend a hand! Look, Harry Potter, obviously, helping the unfortunate!

But this was unkind. Sometimes Neville was unkind, even though he had kept it a secret all his life.

But the world hadn’t been too kind to Neville and he often felt justified in returning the favor, in thinking darker, ungrateful thoughts and then keeping those thoughts between the recesses of his ears.

But Hogwarts was a long time ago, and surely Neville had proven himself in the war.

Did he not still have nightmares about Nagini, that thin spectre, not an ounce of extra fat on its bones, menacing him with a forked tongue while he swung the sword of Gryffindor impotently? Of course he did. That was how Neville knew he had proved his worth.

And didn’t he go to the Yule Ball with Ginny Weasley (Neville cringed inwardly at the memory!) and later date Luna Lovegood for quite some time? And wasn’t that proof that he was finally worthy of the inner circle? That he had won an Order of Merlin along with the golden trio?

But of course it was Luna, his darker thoughts told him. She was also weird, existing on the fringes of the group, sometimes only vaguely tolerated by Hermione and existing as an object of fond amusement for Ron and Harry.

That had been a two year relationship. Two years of Neville having sex with his shirt on, refusing to dance with Luna and the wackspurts, guarding her loyally as she experimented with her psychoactive potions in an attempt to reach some sort of transcendence, even as she begged him to let go and participate a bit.

“Whatever you think I’m thinking, I’m not,” she had declared.

“I know,” said Neville automatically.

“I think you’re beautiful,” said Luna sincerely, and Neville had jolted at the thought that he could be beautiful, that any man really could be described as beautiful, but especially him.

How gratifying that compliment would have been if only he had believed it.

“I think you’re beautiful too,” said Neville, defaulting to a safer, more familiar area. This was something he said often to Luna.

How he admired her petite bones, the way she was often done eating after seven bites, the cut of her collarbone and her jaw and the way her stomach was barely there, just a light pooch after she had really stuffed herself.

Everything Neville ate stuck to him permanently. It was like his body was in constant survival mode, holding on to any food it might get to it in case tomorrow was the day food would be lost to them.

Luna sighed. “I mean it,” she said, and she had slipped a hand under Neville’s shirt, and he had jolted again, unpleasantly this time, at the thought of her feeling his tits, those conglomerations of unwanted flesh, and he had stood up abruptly and made for the loo.

There he took off his shirt and sighed into the mirror, and then, with a violence that was unexpected to him, spat at his reflection.

That globule of spit hung there on the glass, distorting the full vision of him, disgusting. Just like Neville.

“You alright, Neville?” said Luna, knocking on the door.

“Yes!” Neville snapped.

Luna was kind but she didn’t understand what it felt like to live in a body that was unwelcome, that no one wanted to look at, that no one thought about naked, that shuddered at the thought of summer time and swimsuits, that indulged in upsetting daydreams about unzipping himself and stepping out and being anyone else.

Yes, there was polyjuice potion, and Neville had tried it, even though even the smallest dose was expensive and difficult to procure.

Neville had shamefully gone to a bar after he and Luna had broken up, wearing the face of a handsome twenty seven year old brunette with sparkling blue eyes and a tall, chiseled body. It had been so easy, approaching a woman, and then a man, and then another woman.

They had all turned to him with attentive eyes, smiling gently at his half arsed jokes, acting like him buying them a drink was a great and noble feat.

“So you went to school in Ireland?” said Carrie. “Have I heard of the place?”

“I don’t think so,” said Neville gently, putting a hand on her thigh.

Carrie allowed it. She more than allowed it. She welcomed it.

“And where did you go to school?” said Neville, inching his large, gentle hands further up her leg.

“Just a l-little place in Devon,” said Carrie.

“Have I heard of it?” said Neville.

“No,” Carrie whispered, leaning in for a torrid kiss.

And there was Michael, who had approached the polyjuiced Neville with a hungry gleam in his eye. Michael was average looking, practically invisible in a crowd, of average weight, height and attractiveness.

“Can I buy you a drink?” said Michael.

Neville, realizing he was exhausted after a lifetime of initiating sexual contact, had practically fallen into Michael’s arms.

“Have you ever done this before?” murmured Michael softly, playing with Neville’s hair, curled up in a booth in the corner.

“Not exactly,” said Neville.

“I find that hard to believe, but it would be an honor to be your first,” said Michael. “If you want to?”

He had sucked Neville’s cock in the bathroom, Neville’s thick, large, beautiful cock that wasn’t really Neville’s.

“God,” said Michael, unzipping Neville’s pants. “You’re so-“

Michael didn’t finish the sentence, choosing instead to rub Neville’s cock over his face like a starving man.

He had begged Neville to come home with him that night. Neville hadn’t even had to return the favor. Michael swallowed Neville’s come like it was a healing elixir.

How sleazy it had all been, Michael inserting a neatly placed finger in Neville’s pert, toned arse, timed with the strokes of Michael’s practiced tongue.

Neville had nearly collapsed on him. This was the transcendence Luna was talking about, he thought for a foolish moment, before remembering that he was lying about the basest elements of himself while getting stroked off by a stranger in a grime encrusted bar bathroom and the polyjuice would soon fade.

“I have to go,” said Neville, like an arsehole.

Michael had just accepted it, as though that was Neville’s due, being a handsome man.

“I thought you might-“

“I have to go,” said Neville. “Maybe I’ll see you here tomorrow night?”

Michael had nodded eagerly.

Neville had shown up the next night as himself. Michael hadn’t paid him a second glance.

There had been Alexander, a man of equal attractiveness, a male model who wanted to know if Neville wanted to have a threesome and also if Neville had an agent.

Neville had been worshipped that night.

There was Laura, who reminded him unfortunately of Hermione (and god was it desperately gratifying and dishonest to feel wanted by her), and Sarah and Jessica and Alexa, all lonely singles. Neville had done his best to make them feel less alone, if only for a night.

And then Neville tired of the lies and the deceit and the money he was spending on polyjuice. In later days he had been drawn more to average men, people who looked like him, people who shied away from attention and wanted sex with the lights off. Neville had relished making them feel attractive, giving himself to them utterly, losing himself in making them feel joy.

But he always had to leave in a few hours.

(It was sucking on a fat man’s tits he loved the most, using a little teeth, scratching at the nub of them, rubbing his face between them, telling them how hot they were, licking around layers of stomach, inserting his face between pudgy, cellulite covered arse cheeks, dropping kisses on thick, hairy, sweaty thighs.)

That was Neville’s education.

It took a year for Neville to feel he had learned all he could, to feel utterly emotionally drained, to show up at Luna’s house and attempt to use all his tricks on her, to have her throw him out-

“You’re being manipulative!” Luna cried. “You need to see a healer!”

Neville had never seen Luna so far from calm. He sought for something inside him to say that wasn’t from the greedy, grasping, selfish part of him. He clamped down on the most basic statement he could.

“Sorry,” said Neville.

Luna tightened her gauzy purple shawl around herself. How Neville just wanted to touch those fragile bones of hers, see how he could make them sing. “I know you are,” she said.

Neville had almost crumpled to the ground then and there.

The world only loves me when I am lying to it, he thought, but you loved me as I was.

“What can I do?” said Neville. “All I want is you.”

Luna looked sad. “We both know that isn’t true,” she said. “And I’m seeing Rolf now.”

“I love you,” said Neville desperately.

Luna touched his shoulder, featherlight. “I love you too,” she said. “I always, always will.”

No one will ever write Sexiest Wizard Alive! Profiles about us, Neville thought. No one will ever think of us as the main characters. We’re on the fringe, we’re supporting actors, we’re afterthoughts and third billings, but Luna’s found joy.

Neville straightened up, rolled his shoulders back. “Thank you,” he said softly, just like he said it to Luna the first time she had told him. “I’m going to get help.”

“You’re not alone,” said Luna.

Luna hadn’t been his first. A few months after the Battle of Hogwarts, a Harry Potter groupie had fucked Neville in the hopes of getting to Harry.

The sex had been quick, uncomfortable and uneventful. She had tried to restrain herself from giggling at Neville’s nakedness, but Neville heard that same reluctant choke of laughter he had heard from people in the Hogwarts hallways, shock at how a fat person could have invaded their space when he so obviously didn’t belong, and Neville had reddened with shame and come on the spot.

Afterwards, he had tried to rationalize it – the girl had been looking for Harry, the eighteen year old hardbodied savior. Of course Neville’s jiggling, blubbering fat would be a crushing disappointment. Of course.

Neville had pulled his clothes back on as fast as he could.

“So you’re not going to introduce me to Harry?” she’d said. “Even if I call you my boyfriend?”

How easily she had read his loneliness, his desire to have someone to validate him, to take to parties as proof that yes, this man is worthy of love or even lust, because this woman found him and chose to fuck him on a continual basis.

“No,” said Neville painfully.

She had flopped back on her bed in her tiny closet of a room in Diagon Alley in the apartment she shared with four other chittering girls.

“What a waste that was,” she said.

It was so unkind, such proof of all the worries Neville had been harboring all those years, that Neville had clutched his heart like he had been struck. Luckily, she wasn’t looking. He had left in a hurry, choking back unmanly tears.

What a waste Neville was. And that had been his first time.

Now, standing on Luna’s porch, Neville self destructively wondered what Luna would say if Neville told her she wasn’t his first.

(She had been so careful with him. It had taken place in a room full of candles and purple wallpaper and the Weird Sisters playing softly in the background their seminal hit “Baby, Put Your Wand Up My Bottom,” but it didn’t matter. Neville knew he was a waste and all that mattered was hiding that from Luna, never letting her realize.)

“I know,” Luna would probably say softly. Luna knew almost everything. She had seen how much Neville had hated himself all along.

“I can’t be with you when you’re set on hating yourself this much,” she had said upon breaking up with him. The words had rung true.

Now, Neville looked directly at Luna and surrendered. “I feel alone,” he admitted, and let the tears come.

It was a kind of transcendence in a way, to give up so thoroughly on being a certain kind of unattainable manly man.

Teaching Herbology at Hogwarts was the good, gratifying distraction it had always been, except when the students were cruel. The last name Longbottom lent itself to some easy insults, obviously.

Neville was grateful that capes were the Hogwarts professors’ official uniform. You could get lost in a cape. You could be anything under a cape. Neville didn’t exactly wear his capes with the same panache as Professor Snape (may he burn in hell, Neville’s darker thoughts hissed) but he took pride in his capes, feeling safe under them, making yearly fitting appointments at Twilfitt’s for fittings for capes he could barely afford, lined with fur for the winter time and silk for the summer.

He was seeing a healer. He had sworn off polyjuice. He was feeling a slow weight, the kind he had carried for all his life, being lifted off him. He was being kind to himself.

His stomach didn’t matter. His chins didn’t matter. His back fat didn’t matter. His height didn’t matter. He had friends who loved him, a job he enjoyed, and everything would be alright.

Maybe one day he would grow to love his chins and his stomach and his saggy tits. Maybe not. But all of that was what housed his soul and he tried to honor them for carrying him this far.

And all of that was fine until Draco Malfoy came to Hogwarts.

Adjunct professor, swanning in after years of research spent abroad at the Institute in France. Girls and boys squealing and putting on makeup and clamoring to be allowed into Advanced Potions. All the other professors spending their lunches scanning the Great Hall for Draco Malfoy, waiting to see if he would grace them with their presence for lunch.

“He’s a death eater,” said Neville bitterly, biting down hard on a treacle tart in Hagrid’s cabin and immediately regretting it.

“He’s a bit of a git,” Hagrid agreed, polishing off his tart and rubbing his stomach.

“I can’t believe they let him teach,” said Neville. “To children!”

Hagrid shook his head. “They let me teach,” he said.

“You’re a good teacher,” Neville protested. Hagrid really had gotten better with age.

Hagrid rubbed his eyes roughly at Neville’s compliment.

“The arse is only here for a semester, isn’t he?” said Hagrid.

Neville nodded, lighting a fire for Hagrid.

“Ignore ‘im,” Hagrid advised.

Neville nodded.

“Shall I bring out some firewhiskey?” Hagrid offered.

Neville smiled a bit. Malfoy looked just like the men Neville had fucked in those London bars in his polyjuice days. The smarmy prick had probably never heard a no in his life.

Hagrid poured the drinks and they sat, Fang Junior rubbing at Hagrid’s feet, licking his filthy shoes.

“Ye heard from Harry?” said Hagrid presently.

“Not much,” said Neville quietly. “He’s busy-“

“I know, I know,” said Hagrid, looking embarrassed that he had asked. “Jus haven’t heard from ‘im in a while.”

Neville patted Hagrid’s arm. “I’ll tell him he owes you a visit.”

“Ye don’t have to do that,” said Hagrid, embarrassed.

Sometimes Neville looked around Hagrid’s cabin and thought, has he always been alone? Will I always be?

He had started visiting his first year of teaching at Hogwarts and never stopped. He and Hagrid had a good time these days, comparing students and talking shite about other professors, but Neville could tell how much Hagrid missed Harry.

“Yer a good boy,” Hagrid continued, even though Neville was practically thirty seven.

Neville drank his firewhiskey, relishing the burn it left as it slid down his throat.

“And Malfoy’s an arse,” said Hagrid. “Jus ignore him.”

They sat together, watching the moon rise, such unexpectedly old friends that there was no need to speak.

Of course, on his way back to the castle, Neville ran into Malfoy.

“Professor Longbottom,” said Malfoy smoothly, even though he had grass in his hair and his glasses were askew.

“What are you doing?” Neville blurted, feeling a sting of irritation at being referred to as Professor Longbottom as though he hadn’t known Malfoy all his life practically.

And Malfoy looked attractive like this, all bizarrely disheveled, but of course Malfoy looked attractive. He always would. He was an attractive man, as fit as he had been at Hogwarts, fitter even, the Malfoy birthright coming into play. Although Lucius would never have allowed himself to be seen in public looking this much of a mess.

Malfoy tried in vain to straighten his hair. It only made him look more attractive. “Looking for Mortimer seed,” he said, as if it was the most natural thing in the world for a professor to be out at nine pm looking for a plant that first years could grow.

Neville blinked suspiciously.

“Don’t look at me like that,” said Malfoy. “You’re drunk, anyway.”

“No, I’m not,” said Neville.

Malfoy reached out and touched Neville’s cheek. “Then why are you all flushed and red?”

Neville could feel himself getting even more flushed and red. “Why are you out here?”

“I need it for a class tomorrow,” said Malfoy.

“That’s- not in the textbook,” Neville said. He would have remembered, because Mortimer seed was a focal point of Herbology and Hogwarts aged Neville would have loved if there had been some rare crossover between his worst class and his best.

“No,” Malfoy agreed, removing his hand from Neville’s cheek. “I’m teaching them how to brew an Essence of Joy cauldron for extra credit.”

Neville blinked. He could scarcely imagine how pointy nosed, uptight Malfoy could possibly be spending his spare time teaching his students how to make Essence of Joy, a joke potion that was basically just soothing scents they brewed in hospitals to keep patients from panicking and trying to off themselves.

“That’s…nice,” said Neville.

“Wait,” said Malfoy. “You teach Herbology, don’t you?”

“Yes,” said Neville warily. The way Malfoy was staring at him, with all the direct eye contact, Malfoy’s eyes so grey and present and alive, was making him feel like he had missed a step and was able to fall down.

“So don’t you have Mortimer in your storehouse?”

Neville found himself gazing back into Malfoy’s eyes.

“Malfoy, honestly, what are you up to?” he snapped.

Malfoy kept looking at him. “I’ve changed,” said Malfoy, in a quiet, soft voice that did things to Neville.

Neville couldn’t bear looking at him anymore. This was the feeling of being seen he had never gotten in the bars, the sense of someone looking at him and really him and seeing him and not looking away and now it was coming from Malfoy, of all people.

“I see that,” said Neville. “Come on. I’ll get you the Mortimer.”

Malfoy followed him. “Thanks, Professor Longbottom,” he said cheekily.

Neville was glad he was ahead of Malfoy so Malfoy couldn’t see his face.

“You’ve known me my whole life,” Neville grumbled. “You can call me by my name.”

Malfoy jogged to catch up with him. “Then you can call me by mine, Neville.”

Neville gave a curt nod. “Fine, Draco.”

The name didn’t exactly roll off his tongue, but it was there, and it seemed to please Draco.

Entering the storeroom, Draco removed his cloak ostentatiously. “Heavy thing,” he said. Underneath he was wearing a form fitting shirt and well fitted pants that glided over the clean lines of his body.

“It’s climate controlled in here,” said Neville.

Draco unbuttoned a button. “Hmm,” he said, wandering around. His body seemed powerful, enviable, wantable. Neville didn't know if he wanted to be Draco or if he just wanted Draco. Neville felt the effects of the alcohol hit him suddenly. He opened the cabinet, took out the bag of Mortimer seed he had had his first years collect and took it over to Draco.

Draco opened it and took a whiff. “Thanks,” he said dreamily.

“I don’t know how to brew an Essence of Joy,” said Neville.

Draco gave Neville a glance with half lidded eyelashes over his shoulder.

Neville was exceedingly glad for the formlessness of his cape.

“Come to my lab now,” Draco commanded. “We’ll brew one.”

Neville stiffened. He didn’t have fond memories of the Potions lab, a place where he recalled the watchful eye of Snape bearing down on him as he struggled to stir overcomplicated potions counter clockwise as the timer ticked.

“Come,” said Draco, picking up his cloak. Neville followed. He didn't have a choice in the matter.

The lab looked softer than it had when Snape reigned. Still the same industrial tables and chairs, but now there were potions on the wall, diagrams of the most popular potions, student issues pinned to the blackboard with smiles drawn on them, some light clutter overflowing out of the spare cabinets. It smelled of violets and freesia.

Draco threw off his cloak again and began to rummage in the supply closet for ingredients.

“Rose…nose of wart…blast it, we’re out of the Galapagos hothouse-“

Neville sank into a chair, feeling dizzy from the smells and the drink and the visuals. “You don’t need a Galapagos hothouse to make an Essence of Joy,” he said dumbly.

“I’m making a special one,” said Draco, without turning around.

Neville stared at Draco’s back. There was not an ounce of embarrassing fat anywhere on his body.

“It smells nice in here,” said Neville.

“Doesn’t it?” said Draco, smiling, clearing a space on his desk. “Alright. First things first, let’s crush the rose-“

Draco rolled up his sleeve and Neville caught a glimpse of the Dark Mark. It was faded, and surrounded by a flower tattoo, but still there and present and very much the focal point of Draco’s arm.

Draco rolled his sleeve back down.

“I saw Potter in Mykonos a few days ago,” he said, still brewing with sure, nimble fingers. “He was jealous I was coming back here.”

Neville was quiet.

“He was on some kind of mission,” said Draco.

Neville rubbed a hand through his hair. What was he doing here, in the old Potions lab, with Malfoy of all people, in the middle of the night?

“Do you see him a lot?” asked Draco.

“No,” said Neville. “Nobody does.”

Draco bit his lip, concentrating, as he poured in the right amount of julep.

“Do you miss him?” said Draco.

Neville swallowed. “What is this?” he said. “What’s happening here?”

“Shh,” said Draco, continuing to brew.

Neville was possessed by the urge to tell Draco the truth, say “you do know that I’m fat, ungainly, ugly, under this cloak? That whatever absolution you think you’ll get from me is something I can’t give myself? That you might be evil once but you will always be more desirable than me?”

A warm, inviting smell was beginning to waft into the room.

“Smells lovely, doesn’t it?” said Draco.

Neville tilted his head back, grateful for being drunk as an excuse for not being perfect, and breathed it in.

Draco sank to his knees in front of Neville. There was still a leaf in his hair. Neville didn’t move, frozen in place, as Draco reached for the hem of his robe and lifted it up.

Neville closed his eyes as Draco’s fingers nimbly tiptoed up his short, stubby legs until they got to his zip.

“Open your eyes,” said Draco. “I want you to see what I’m going to do to you.”

Draco slipped open the zipper. Neville tilted his body up to allow Draco to slip his pants off, keeping his eyes closed.

He felt Draco hold his cock in his hands as if weighing it, his eyes searing through to Neville.

Then without further ado he reached down and wrapped his mouth around Neville.  

Draco made a mess of himself just like he had in the field. There were ugly squelching sounds, and gagging, and some embarrassing sounds emerged from Neville.

Draco was unexpectedly enthusiastic, taking Neville down deeper than Neville could have expected a posh twat to be capable of, gently massaging Neville’s inner thigh as he did.

Neville came ferociously hard and Draco swallowed all of him.

He opened his eyes to find Draco looking at him, a line of spit dripping from his mouth and his eyes watering from the deep throating.

Neville gently wiped Draco’s jaw clean.

“Was that-“ started Draco.

Neville felt dizzy. This was nothing like it had been with Luna or Carrie or Michael.

“That was- can I – “ said Neville, reaching for Draco.

“Want to come to my room?” said Draco.

Neville suddenly became aware of the fact that the bottom half of him was just out, nude, and Draco could see him, witness his every twitch and shift, catalogue his every lump and stretch mark. Neville yanked his pants up.

Coming to Draco’s room would mean taking his clothes off. It would mean seeing Draco and Draco seeing him and being found utterly wanting. It would mean being told to leave, and Neville didn’t want to leave this space of roses and Essence of Joy and Draco’s messiness.

“Here is fine,” said Neville.

He pulled Draco off quickly, as though Draco were a man in a bar and he was Polyjuiced to oblivion and far more gorgeous than Draco and the one with the power in the situation. Draco submitted to it, unzipping his pants for Neville, pulling himself out, putting Neville’s hand on it.

Neville moved on autopilot, stroking quickly and roughly. He almost could have been anywhere if not for the weight of Draco’s stare on him.

Neville felt Draco tremble. He felt the power of holding Draco in his hands.

I could stop right now and leave him here, thought Neville. It would be revenge for every arse who’s ever flirted with me in a bar and ignored me when I wasn’t polyjuiced.

It would be revenge for letting death eaters into Hogwarts.

It would be revenge for the stares in the Great Hall, and the ruination of his and Luna’s relationship, and the way he had spat at himself in the mirror and investigated the Muggle custom of liposuction.

Draco’s hands came up to rest on Neville’s waist and Neville couldn’t do it.

Draco came softly, soundlessly, mouth open in a silent O, eyes finally closed, leaning towards Neville, head bowed. Neville cleaned him off and tucked him into his pants.

Afterwards it was quiet.

“Thanks,” said Draco awkwardly.

“Thanks, also,” said Neville, making it even more awkward.

They cleaned up in tandem, putting the rose petals back in its container, putting the cauldron in the sink, Neville handing Draco his cloak.

“Well, good night,” said Draco at the foot of the stairs.

Neville couldn’t look at him.

He has seen me, thought Neville, and he is repulsed. Aside from Luna and the groupie, Draco would now be the only one who ever had.

“Good night,” Neville mumbled, striding away.

He regrets it, thought Neville. Of course he does.

What a waste that was, he’s probably thinking.

--

Neville knocked on Luna’s door. It opened automatically. It pleased Neville to think that she still had the wards positioned to automatically let him in. luna hadn’t been lying when she said she loved him still.

“Neville,” said Luna from the couch, where she was lying with her head in Rolf’s lap. Rolf looked spaced out and distant.

“He’s experimenting with lemon wort journeys,” said Luna.

Neville smiled. He found himself happy for Luna that she had found someone who wanted to go on lemon wort journeys with her.

“I had sex with Draco Malfoy,” he said.

“Well, Malfoy,” said Luna, in her smiling, drifting way. “He’s a bit of an alright sort, isn’t he?”

“Is he?” said Neville. “I mean, he was a death eater and all.”

“He was always crying,” said Luna. “You blink at him, he cried, you wave a hand, he cried.”

“What?” said Neville. This was nothing like the disaffected Draco he remembered from Hogwarts, laying his patrician head in Pansy Parkinson’s lap and closing his eyes, confident that when he was finished resting the world would be exactly as he left it.

“In the dungeons,” said Luna.

Neville touched her arm, for Luna was looking considerably twitchy. Luna was Luna, and even though people sometimes didn’t give her the dignity of considering her humanity, she was human, and traumatized, and she never liked to speak about the dungeons, and when she did, it was in code. When Luna spoke of “The trumple horned snaggerhoofs” it meant the deatheaters “Andalasia” meant her time in the dungeons.

This was the first time she had uttered the word to him in years.

“I thought-“ started Neville, but Luna pulled him to the couch and passed him the lemon wort joint and widened her eyes at him.

It was a test of Neville’s new daredevilry. Neville lay back on the couch, refusing to compare his body to Rolf’s younger, slimmer, more conventionally desirable one, and took a puff.

“Oh, Neville,” said Rolf distantly, stirring. “The seaweed is back on the walls again.”

The walls looked as purple as they always did, and certainly seaweedless.

Neville passed Luna the joint.

“Yes,” said Luna.

Neville felt Rolf’s shoulder brush against his, felt something stir inside him.

Luna shared a private smile with Neville at Rolf’s sloppiness.

Neville felt private, ridiculously tender thoughts bubble up inside him at the thought of Rolf and Luna living here, experimenting together.

I should give him the wedding ring I meant to give to Luna, Neville thought insanely.

The lemon wort was kicking in.

“Do you want-“ said Luna.

“Yes,” said Neville immediately, huskily, voice thick.

It was a wonderful night! Closure for two years of unreasonably bad sex will do that to you.

 

When Neville got back to Hogwarts, even with his head pounding like there were a thousand shrieking banshees in it, he felt invigorated.

He was worthy, Draco was a nice person, Draco was interested. It was time to go after what he wanted.

After a truly dreadful day of teaching and an unfortunate explosion of Murple Meetcacks on a fourth year, Neville sought Draco out.

He checked the potions lab, he checked the grounds, he even wandered around the professors’ living halls. No Draco.

Giving up, Neville headed for the Quidditch grounds. If he couldn’t have some life affirming sex with the fittest man he’d ever seen, then at least he’d have a nice fly.

Of course, there was Draco, hair aflutter, a smudge of dirt on his collar, robes askew.

This new, messy Draco, Neville liked. Neville really liked.

“Draco!” Neville yelled and satisfyingly, Draco almost fell off his broom.

Instead he swooped to the ground. “Neville,” he said. “You weren’t at breakfast.”

“You look like a fairy tale prince,” said Neville abruptly.

“I’m not,” said Draco.

“I know.”

Draco laughed at that. “So…”

“Come to my room,” said Neville. “Please.”

Draco looked at him. Really looked at him.

“Alright,” said Draco.

Afterwards they lay in bed together, Neville still panting, Draco’s breath irritatingly cool and even. Neville played with Draco’s hair. There was barely a glimmer of light in the room, at Neville’s request. Draco just lay there and allowed himself to be played with.

“You look so pretty,” said Neville. “You always do.”

“The other professors don’t talk to me,” said Draco.

“Do they not?” said Neville. “Not even Professor Bingerholz?”

Neville pronounced it in the Dutch way Maura always demanded it be said in, hoping to make Draco laugh so he could feel the way Draco’s body shook from laughter, the way having Draco here he could manipulate him like a doll, like a toy.

“She wants to sleep with me,” said Draco.

“No, she doesn’t,” said Neville immediately. “How do you know? Are you interested?”

“No,” said Draco. “I’m here, aren’t I?”

“Did you know I was interested?”

“Not at first,” said Draco.

“What makes you think she is?”

“I just know,” said Draco. “I know what it looks like when someone wants to sleep with me.”

Draco’s face was so close to Neville’s, so within smacking distance. Suddenly all Neville wanted to do was smack him. He could understand the constant urge Harry Potter had to ruin Draco, the man who had never heard no, who could see into people’s innermost desires and know that they were of him, while Neville was doomed to stand by in corners of crowded bars, ignored.

“Right,” said Neville, suddenly wishing Draco would leave but unable to ask him to. Neville didn’t feel up to being faced with the permanent contrast between Draco’s beauty and his...well, inescapable Longbottomishness.

“I just meant-“ started Draco. “I’m just- Maura will only talk to me because she’s interested in me. Everyone else, anyone who knew me or knew of me, they all steer well clear of me.”

“Do they?” said Neville.

“Please,” said Draco, and Neville knew this meant please be kind to me when I am here with you like this, giving myself to you, when all Draco wanted was a familiar face.

Neville relented and resumed stroking Draco’s hair.

“They just have to get used to you,” Neville said.

Draco sat up abruptly. “Obviously,” he said, sounding back to the posh self Neville recognized.

“What?” said Neville, purposely disingenuous. “You can’t expect everyone to want to shag you.”

“I don’t,” said Draco. Neville could make out the shape of him, his soft cock between his legs, rooting around on the floor for his clothes.

“Okay,” said Neville. “Then why are you leaving?”

“This was  a bad idea,” said Draco. “I told you I was alone in a new place and you basically just told me I can’t coast on my looks forever!”

“No, I didn’t!” said Neville, and the stormy look on Draco’s pale face, ringed with long blonde hair, suddenly reminded Neville of Luna.

Draco pulled his pants up his thighs. “If you hate your body so much, go on a diet!” he snapped. Luna would never have said that.

Neville wished he wasn’t so naked. He bit his lip and waited for Draco to pull his shirt up.

“I mean, you look fine to me, but it’s obviously something for you-”

“Fuck you,” said Neville, embarrassed this his self hatred was so plainly apparent.

Draco stopped before Neville, fully dressed. “Apologies,” he said.

“You have no idea what it’s like to be me,” said Neville. “To look like me.”

“You have no idea what it’s like to be me,” said Draco.

“You chose to be a death eater,” said Neville. “I didn’t choose any of this.”

“I didn’t choose,” said Draco, biting the words out. “I was threatened, blackmailed-”

“Let’s not talk about this,” said Neville. “You don’t have to prove your innocence to me. If you’re back at Hogwarts, someone must have thought you were…”

“Were what?”
“Worthy,” Neville bit out.

“Oh, because Hogwarts has never been wrong before?” said Draco, slamming the door behind him.

 

When Draco dropped by his chambers the next night, Neville didn’t say a word. Just undressed and didn’t move, lay on his bed like a king on his throne, or more like a beached whale unable to reach the water, and let Draco crawl to him, and press himself to him, and didn’t allow Draco to talk and gripped Draco’s hair roughly as Draco sucked and Draco took it all.

He let Draco lick his feet and his arse and his armpits and all the places he was embarrassed about, bite gently down on the arm fat that jiggled when he ran, and suck on the tits that shirts couldn’t hide, and he came on Draco’s pretty face and held on to Draco for fifteen minutes and didn’t let him wash it off.

He turned Draco over and handled him with a clinical, assessing eye and Draco seemed to like it, even if he seemed smaller and more defeated by the end of it, as Neville sponged off his face.

“Sorry,” said Neville. “If that wasn’t-”

“It was fine,” said Draco, in the tone of voice of a man who had seen much worse. “I liked it. Some parts.”

Neville felt a hot rush of shame swamp him. “Tell me which parts you didn’t like, so I won’t do them again,” he said, even though he was quite sure he knew which parts Draco hadn't liked, but Draco shook his head and rolled onto his side and didn’t talk.

“I’m sorry,” said Neville. Neville thought Draco looked like some kind of Greek statue in repose, there on his side, sheets artfully arranged around his ankles, stunning, as though aesthetic beauty was the same thing as being a good person. Like someone so beautiful could never do anything wrong, every muscle beaming with good health, utterly blessed.

Neville reached out and touched Draco’s shoulder.

“It’s fine,” Draco snapped. “I came here, didn’t I?”

“It’s not fine,” said Neville softly, insistently.

“Everyone wants to do this,” said Draco, sounding almost petulant.

“Do what?” said Neville.

“I get it,” said Draco, and it sounded like a speech he had given before. “I look like a product of inbreeding, I’m pale and bookish, with a prejudiced past...everyone wants to ruin me.”

“Ruin you?” said Neville.

“Ruin something beautiful,” said Draco. He turned over to look at Neville. “Not that I’m, you know, but just that I look like a very specific sort of rich brat.”

The line of Draco’s back looked incredible with the way Draco was stretching to look at Neville. Draco knew his angles. He was a man of angles. He looked particularly good to Neville from this one.

Neville took a breath. He was in over his head. He remembered, with a sick sort of reminiscence, the scent of rose and hope in Draco’s laboratory that first night, the way Draco had leaned over him, working so hard, as if he could earn his emotional keep at Hogwarts just by sucking the Herbology teacher’s cock well enough.

“I didn’t want to ruin you, or punish you, or anything like that,” said Neville.

Now that Draco had said his piece, it seemed as though the power was with Draco again, as his unsaid accusation of Neville hovered around the room.

“You did,” said Draco. “And I let you. I wanted you to.”

He stopped looking at Neville and moved onto his back and stared at the ceiling.  

“What else would you have let me do?” whispered Neville.

“Whip me. Spank me. Beat me. Choke me. Make me come. Not let me come.”

Neville could feel himself hardening at the thought, as though he was failing a test Draco was giving him. He traced a finger around Draco’s lips.

“You’re so cold,” said Neville, pulling Draco to him, letting Draco feel his hardness.

“I always am,” said Draco, around where he was sucking on Neville’s fingers.

“Let me warm you up,” said Neville, wrapping an arm around Draco.

“Can we turn the lights on?” said Draco.

“Yes,” said Neville. Draco had revealed himself, now Neville would do him the same service. He wanted to be seen by Draco. He felt he had been waiting a lifetime for this.

Draco whispered the spell. Neville ran his knuckles down Draco’s back.

“Look at me,” said Neville, and Draco leaned back and did.

Draco’s scrutiny was the most brutal caress of Neville’s skin.

“Turn over,” commanded Draco.

Neville quivered.

“I have tried to diet,” he said. It was easier to talk when he wasn’t making eye contact with Draco.

“I wasn’t saying you should, I was just saying you could, if you were unhappy,” said Draco, breathing on the back of Neville’s knees.

Neville’s toes curled. Draco spread Neville’s cheeks and spat. It was an ugly sound emerging from a beautiful man. He felt sanctified by it.

“It - it doesn’t work on me,” said Neville. “Dieting, I mean.”

Draco straddled Neville’s body.

“This is who I am,” said Neville, and squashed his face into the pillow.

Draco inserted a finger inside Neville. “Is this okay?”

“You can do what you want with me,” breathed Neville. “Same as you.”

The finger pressed in further. “But do you like it?”

“Yes,” said Neville. He liked Draco’s undivided attention very much. “I like it, so much.”

“Good,” said Draco. “How about you be nice to me and I’ll be nice to you?”

“More,” said Neville. “Yes.”

Neville reared up at something Draco was doing behind him.

“You can make noise,” said Draco. “I like that.”

Neville muffled a sob.

“You can cry,” said Draco. “I especially like that.”

“God,” gasped Neville, starting to cry.

It really was a kind of transcendence, to give up so thoroughly on being a man.

“I like you so much,” Neville said later, his legs suspended on Draco’s shoulders.

“Keep looking at me,” Draco commanded.

“I’m looking,” said Neville, acutely aware of the intensity of Draco’s gaze. “You’re- “

There weren’t words for the precise kind of powerful Draco looked, hovering over Neville, working on Neville, working on destroying Neville, seeing Neville.

“So are you,” said Draco and Neville came almost violently, seeing white out of the corner of his eyes.

It took Neville an overstimulated five seconds to realize Draco had pulled out, had clambered up Neville’s body, was waiting over Neville’s face. Neville opened his mouth.

He remembered what Draco said before, with a variation. I want anything you have to give me.

There was the taste of salt, the proof of Draco’s attraction to him. Draco closed his mouth for him and wiped an errant tear from Neville’s eye.

“You look so good like this,” said Draco.

“Thank you,” said Neville, refusing to allow any other darker thoughts in. “Please stay?”

Draco pinked up, pleased. “If you insist,” he said.

 

Neville took Draco to Luna and Rolf’s for tea not long after that.

“So,” said Neville, as he prepared the floo powder, “I dated Luna for two years.”

“Oh,” said Draco, aloofness turned up to one thousand percent, which meant he was interested, nervous and beginning to be agitated.

“And I’ve slept with her and her husband,” continued Neville. “Cards on the table and everything.”

“Right,” said Draco.

“She looks a bit like you,” said Neville. “Luna, I mean. All blonde and messy.”

Draco snorted.

“Guess I have a type,” said Neville, fondly.

They flooed in, Neville first, Draco at his heels.

The apartment looked festive and Luna and Rolf were both pleasantly tipsy, two butterbeers in and intent on getting Neville and Draco on their level. Spirits were high.

“So I heard from Harry,” said Luna. “He’ll be in town for New Year’s.”

“Smashing,” said Rolf.

“Lovely,” said Neville.

Draco nodded, eyeing the way Rolf’s mug was tilting precariously on the edge of the table.

“I think  you might-“ Draco started, and then the mug fell off and smashed.

“Oh, well,” said Rolf gloomily, as Luna refilled him.

“So Harry wrote to you?” said Neville.

“Reparo,” said Draco quietly to the broken mug.

“We write quite a bit these days, now that he’s finally being sent to places I’d want to go,” said Luna. “Montenegro and all that.”

“We’re not really that close,” said Neville. “Never were, really.”

It was nice to be honest.

“Well, you two should come by on New Year’s, when he’s here, although-“ Luna stopped, giving Draco an unsubtle sideways glance.

“It’s fine,” said Draco stiffly. “Where’s the loo?”

Neville’s delight at hearing Draco master such pedestrian slang was tempered by vague, unexpressed concern about how Draco was getting on.

“Down the hall,” said Luna. “Door doesn’t lock but we won’t interrupt!”

Draco inclined his head and left.

“Seems nice,” grunted Rolf, the minute he left.

“Seems miserable,” said Luna. “Why doesn’t he drink?”

“Ask him,” said Neville. “I think it’s to do with his father.”

“Mm,” said Luna.

“I suppose I should check on him,” ventured Neville.

Luna smiled. “Top boyfriend marks,” she said, and Neville felt embarrassed to think of all the times he had ignored Luna’s emotions to make space for his own while they were together.

“Stop thinking,” said Luna. “D’you think you’ll sleep here tonight?”

“Doubt it,” said Rolf.

Neville made for the loo and knocked on the door. “Draco, you alright? Can I come in?”

The door opened a crack. “You bumbling Gryffindors realize this apartment is a studio and I can hear everything, don’t you?”

“Luna is a Ravenclaw,” said Neville mildly. “And I don’t know what Rolf was.”

“Well, you fucked them both!” said Draco.

“Open the door,” said Neville. “What’s going on?”

Draco let him in.

The bathroom light was not kind to Neville, emphasizing the bags under his eyes and the recently acquired wrinkles round his mouth and his double chin-

Neville looked away.

Draco looked like he was gearing up for a proper strop, pacing back and forth.

“Are you jealous?” said Neville. He could feel himself starting to grin.

“If I took you to, say, Pansy’s, and started talking about how I slept with her and her husband and oh yes I was together with her for two years and oh we know all the same people and grew up together and are exceedingly fond of each other, wouldn’t you get jealous?” snapped Draco.

Neville put his hands on Draco’s (ridiculously slim) waist.

“But I am exceedingly fond of you,” said Neville.

He positioned the two of them in front of the mirror, in the cruel lighting.

“Don’t we look good together?” said Neville.

Draco rolled his eyes and looked away.

“Seriously, don’t we?” said Neville. He knew if things got any more serious, Draco was headed for a lifetime of “you settled for him?” statements and “darling, you could do better.” But there was something very attractive about the two of them together in the mirror, Neville’s calm to Draco’s bubbling cauldron of emotions, Neville dark where Draco was light and vice versa, yin and yang.

“Yes, we do,” admitted Draco, poking Neville in the stomach.

It felt natural and sweet to not hide it.

“Exceedingly fond,” Neville repeated. “And you’re not alone with a bunch of bumbling Gryffindors. I’m on your side. I always am.”

“Alright,” said Draco, and they went back out, and Luna was noisily snogging Rolf on the couch and Draco was hardly perturbed, even if it was the sort of blurring between public and private boundaries he was always going on and on about.

“So you know how I was going on about Draco being a slimy, nosy git?” said Neville.

“Yeh,” said Hagrid.

“I’m seeing him,” said Neville. “Romantically.”

Hagrid looked up from the section of his garden he was pruning with a comically large set of shears, wielding them in a manner so dangerous even Fang Junior had scampered and Neville had retreated to almost the opposite end of the year where the shears couldn’t reach, even if he had to shout to be heard.

“That’s…” Hagrid dropped the shears. “He still a nosy lil git?”

“No,” said Neville. “I promise.”

Something in Neville’s voice made Hagrid look at him.

“Well, yeh seem happier, that’s for certain,” said Hagrid. “Is he treating you well?”

Neville nodded. “I’ll bring him round,” he said.

“Maybe not just yet,” said Hagrid, looking protectively at all the areas of his lawn where he likely had illegal creatures nestling and illegal substances growing.

“Of course,” said Neville.

“I’m glad you’re not…by yerself anymore,” said Hagrid.

“Thanks,” said Neville. “I am too.”

“Got a letter from Harry today,” said Hagrid. “Said he’d be comin’ by on New Year’s Day.”

“Excellent,” said Neville. Hagrid was looking off into the distance.

“You all right, Hagrid?” he said. He and Hagrid were fellow outsiders, spilling out of pants and the public eye, grabbing looks of consternation and sideways glances, no one’s friend on a crowded train or at a buffet. There was a kinship between them that no one, not even Harry Potter could understand, Neville thought savagely.

Neville had visited the Owlery three days ago with a note.

Harry, not to be a bother, but you should really write to Hagrid. See you New Year’s. NL

“Take this to Harry Potter, wherever he is,” he had instructed a tawny barn owl, who bit his finger before departure. Neville wasn’t sure the letter would find Harry but he was glad it had.

“M’alright,” said Hagrid, without turning around. “I’ve got you, I’ve got Harry, I’ve got Hogwarts…M’happy. How could I not be?”

I’ll never stop coming by, Neville swore silently to Hagrid.

“I brought you some Essence of Joy,” said Neville, taking it out of his pocket.

The aroma of roses and hope filled the yard.

“Nice one,” said Hagrid gruffly.

“Brewed this one myself,” said Neville.

Hagrid patted him on the back, a movement that might have sent thinner, smaller men sprawling onto the ground, but Neville stood firm.

“It’ll be a good year,” said Neville. When you were at Hogwarts as long as Neville and Hagrid had been, the years seemed to blend into one another, fading into the past with a blur of loneliness and quiet despair. But this year seemed as though it would be different somehow.

“Mm,” said Hagrid. “Yeh.”

I don’t want you to be alone, Neville thought. I want to find you someone.

But Neville knew he could come to Hagrid’s cottage now or six years from now and it would be utterly the same. There was a resigned comfort in that.

I love you, Neville thought, for the first time. You’re like a father to me. More a father than my actual father, who had been thin and frail, rotting away on a hospital bed, skinny until the day he died. Hagrid was real and thick and present and had always been there for him in later years.

But Neville didn’t say it, just sat and kept Hagrid company while he pruned, the way old friends sometimes do.