"Be not afraid of greatness: Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them." - Malvolio, Twelfth Night, Act II, Scene 5
"Christ, Harry! Get up. It's..." Ron checked his watch, where Harry's hand pointed to 'late'. Damn it. Stupid magical watches. "Uh, it's late," he finished lamely. Harry sighed and flipped onto his stomach, covering his head with a pillow. Ron grabbed Harry's leg and started to pull, so Harry grabbed at the headboard, whining softly. Ron grunted in frustration. "I'll quit. God help me, I will!"
Harry spun around, sitting straight up. "You wouldn't!"
"I would! And I'll take Hermione, Ginny, and Remus with me. You have appearances and commitments, you're making the firm look bad, and if you didn't want the attention, you shouldn't have gone into Quidditch!" Ron knew his face must be bright red, but he didn't particularly care.
Shoulders sagging, Harry heaved a tragic sigh. "But he won't speak to me!" Harry wailed, his hands balled into fists.
Ron rolled his eyes. Not again. "Harry, for fuck's sake, it's Malfoy. Draco Malfoy, arrogant git..."
"...blond sex god..."
"...conceited bully, who made our lives hell for seven years...."
"...who risked his life to defect to our side..."
"...criminally delicious on a broomstick..."
"...determined to make his management group absolutely miserable..."
"...completely, deliciously unattached..."
"...and straight!" Ron concluded. He paused. "Though, truthfully, that always seemed a little suspect."
Harry's eyes lit up. "You think it's possible? I should go see him."
"Two words, Harry." Ron held up two fingers in a bit of a rude gesture, folding them down with each word. "Restraining. Order."
"Oh, that." Harry waved his hand, dismissing Ron. "It was only threatened. Though I wouldn't want him to get mad. Maybe I should owl him."
Ron managed to drag Harry out of the bed. "Fine, Harry. After your appearance. Some kid wrote an essay called 'Harry Potter, Modern Day Hero' and you need to go to the photo op. Then, you have six potential candidates for your personal assistant." Harry groaned, while Ron muttered under his breath, 'Hope they don't end up like the last three.' Harry's melodramatic tendencies had a way of leading to a lot of early resignations.
"I'll get there, Ron," Harry said. "But I should really write him a poem first."
Ron felt like throwing something. "Listen, Harry, if you want to lay around your giant flat, listening to The Cure, -- and God, your Muggle boyfriends were a horrible, horrible influence -- and writing bad poetry, do it on your own time. Right now, your arse is mine."
Harry looked wounded. "My poetry is not bad!"
"His eyes are as grey as a codfish
Watching him walk makes me glad
I wish I could bag him, I'd thoroughly shag him
My Draco, who screwed over his dad?"
"That was my first poem," Harry said petulantly. "I'm much better now."
"Sure you are, Harry. Get a move on already."
Neville waited at the rendezvous point, wringing his hands. This was to be his first mission without his partner and, truth be told, he was a little nervous. He hadn't been back home in -- God, had it been five years already? Neville had had no contact with his family or friends, going on covert missions, first for the Order, now the Ministry, but at least Luna had always been with him. Feared dead after Death Eaters-at-large ambushed them in Brazil, Neville tried hard not to give up hope, but as each day passed he thought it was less and less likely he'd ever see her again. He paced around anxiously. Where was his contact?
Just then, he heard a soft pop behind him, his hand reflexively going for his wand. When he saw Percy Weasley standing primly before him, Neville relaxed a bit. "Assistant Minister Weasley."
"I'd rather you call me Neville." Neville noted that Percy made no such concessions. Right then. Assistant Minister it was.
"I have orders for your new assignment." Neville nodded, encouraging Percy to go on. "With the disappearance of Miss Lovegood, the Ministry thought it might be wise to keep you a bit closer to home for the time being."
"Yes, I know all that," Neville said, smiling slightly. "It's the reason I'm here. Mung said something about a shipment of illegal hallucinogenic plants being confiscated. I figured you needed me to--"
Percy looked confused. "No, no, nothing like that. This is about the recent Death Eater activity. Needless to say, we're concerned and we have reason to believe Harry Potter might be a target."
Neville gulped, feeling his mouth go suddenly dry and his palms sweat at the name. Apparently, even after all this time, the crush was still in full swing. Damn. "Ha-Harry?" Neville stammered. "Surely, he's perfectly capable of taking care of himself."
"Possibly. But he's not in the employ of the Ministry." Percy sniffed, letting Neville know volumes on his personal feelings about people who didn't work for the Ministry. Neville rolled his eyes, while Percy continued, "He's also a hero to a great many people, an important symbol in these volatile times, and a little...reckless."
Neville smiled. Yes, that certainly was Harry. "All right, but he knows me. We lived in the same room for seven years and fought side-by-side. Hard to do covert missions that way, isn't it?"
Percy cleared his throat, sounding a little embarrassed. "Erm, yes. Well, we, uh, have a disguise for you. You're to pose as Mr Potter's personal assistant."
Neville looked confused. "But that won't hide who I..."
"Yes, er, well, there are glamours."
"Glamours? But those are mostly for wo...men..." Suddenly catching Percy's drift, Neville felt his jaw drop slightly.
"Women are hired for assistant positions eighty percent more often than men, you know." Where had he learned that statistic, Neville wondered. "Plus, it greatly reduces the chances you'll be recognised."
Neville tiredly rubbed at his eyes. "Fine. Do your worst." He spread open his arms, while Percy waved his wand and incanted several charms. The first thing Neville felt was his hair falling softly around his face and over his shoulders. His waist tapered slightly, he felt his shoulders narrow, and, as he watched, wide-eyed, breasts grew large and full on his chest. It was times like these where being gay was such an inconvenience -- this was totally going to waste on him. Neville breathed a sigh of relief when everything below his waist remained in place. Wasn't quite ready to part with that yet.
Percy began transfiguring Neville's clothing. "We'll buy you some suitable robes, but we don't want to draw any attention to you in the meantime." Percy put away his wand and peered carefully at Neville, admiring his work. "Lovely, Mr...I mean, Miss...Agent." Percy handed Neville a mirror. God. He was a woman. He was a woman. He was a woman. A woman with dark blonde ringlets surrounding his face, making his eyes seem wider. Percy had made his lips fuller and chin smaller. It was a bit shocking; he easily could have passed for Luna's sister. Neville sighed, growing wistful, when Percy interrupted his reverie. "Have you given any thought to what you'd like to be called?"
"Viola," Neville answered instantly.
Arching one eyebrow, Percy asked, "Been giving this a lot of thought, have you?"
"No!" Neville said, a bit too quickly. "It's a family name." It was Great Aunt Viola who had given Neville his first Martian Spider Trap as a boy.
"Of course it is." If Neville hadn't known any better, he would have sworn Percy was smirking.
Neville walked around in a circle, stumbling slightly, trying to get used to his new, elevated shoes. "Is it always this hard to walk in heels?"
"Takes practise," Percy blurted.
Neville just stared at him.
Tiredly, Hermione rubbed her eyes. Managing the majority of the big-name Quidditch talent was making her piles of money, she loved running 'Granger, Lupin, Weasley and Weasley', and she regularly got to exercise her head for business, but so many egos. Oh, Lord, the egos. Sitting on the edge of her desk, she closed her eyes and massaged her temples. What was it her therapist said? Oh, yes. In with the butterflies, out with the bees, breathe in, breathe out.
Hermione's eyes flew open as she jumped a foot in the air. Ron grinned sheepishly at her. "Did I interrupt something?" he asked, reaching an arm out to steady her.
"Just the biggest headache I've had...well, since yesterday."
Ron nodded sympathetically. "And how is Malfoy anyway?"
"Same as always." Hermione tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.
"Whiny and full of irrational demands?"
Ron rolled his eyes. "Maybe he and Harry are a good match."
"He likes girls, Ron," Hermione reminded him.
"I still can't get over that."
"Me either," she admitted after a pause. "I wouldn't worry about it, though. Harry will get over it. How many crushes has he had?" Concentrating deeply, Ron started counting on his fingers. "Ron, Ron," Hermione said, slapping his hands down, "stop that. It was a rhetorical question. Truthfully, I just think he needs to meet another boy and then he'll stop mooning around the flat."
Ron opened his mouth to respond, but the door slammed again, causing Ron to jump and Hermione to grab her head in agony. Ginny stomped in, looking absolutely livid. "Have either of you seen Remus?" Both Ron and Hermione shook their heads. "Malfoy's going to fire us if he doesn't show his face around there soon! Remus is the only one who makes Malfoy act even halfway civil."
"Yes, why is that, anyway?" asked Hermione, befuddled.
Ron shrugged. "Claims he finds Remus amusing. Personally, I think he has a bit of a crush on him."
Ginny stared daggers at him. "He does not, Ron!" she said vehemently, turning on her brother. "And you! How could you make Harry miss another appearance?"
"Make him?! That's it. The next time he has to be up before one, you get him."
"He's your client! I just book appearances. This is the third time I've had to reschedule this press conference, you know. His coaches are threatening breach of contract and the fans will never stand for it!" Ginny's voice was reaching hysterical levels. "The press are going to have a field day! Can't you just see the headlines? 'The Boy Who Welshed -- Story on page 3.' The group will be ruined, all our clients will drop us, and Draco will never love me!" Ginny gave a squeak and clapped her hand over her mouth as Ron and Hermione looked at her incredulously. "Heh. Did I say that out loud? What time is it? I need a drink."
Ron gingerly asked, "Malfoy? What about Harry?"
"He's gay, Ron. And besides, I haven't liked him since I was fourteen."
"What about when you were seventeen?"
"Or twenty," Hermione helpfully supplied. Ginny went through men as quickly as Harry did.
"I'm twenty-one now, thank you very much! It's different. I've discovered...oh, you'll never understand!" Ginny flounced off, leaving a bewildered Ron and exhausted Hermione in her wake.
"Well," said Hermione after a moment, "she's certainly full of energy."
"God, she's as bad as Harry," Ron said. "What is it about Malfoy, anyway?"
Hermione shrugged. "I'm not much into blonds, but he really can handle his broom." Ron rolled his eyes again, causing Hermione to wonder what were the odds that they would get stuck. Quickly changing the subject, Hermione asked, "Has Harry picked an assistant yet?"
"Actually, I did." Ron settled next to Hermione on the edge of the desk.
Hermione shook her head. "Didn't show up at all, did he? Harry really needs to snap out of this funk. Well, anyway, this new assistant -- what's he like?"
"I did say Harry wasn't there, right? It's a she. A hot blonde," he said, grinning widely. "Horrible name, can't walk for shit, but definitely a girl. I wasn't about to add another distraction to Harry's list."
Hermione groaned, burying her face in her hands. "We're dead, aren't we?"
"Yep. Our biggest client lives in a dream world, the second biggest is a prat threatening suit against the first, and the rest hired us based on those two. Something had better change and fast." Ron shifted, Hermione suddenly quite aware that the length of his thigh was pressed against hers. "So, Ginny and Malfoy?"
Hermione looked up and shrugged again. She thought she saw Ron almost touch her, but instead he just chuckled nervously and moved away.
Third day on the job and Neville was already suffering. Not because Harry was a terrible employer, despite rumours to the contrary, though the torment was definitely at his boss' hands. Catching a glance of a sleepy-eyed Harry, absently rubbing at his wet head with a towel, clad only in jeans, Neville perched on the edge of the sofa and uncomfortably crossed his legs.
Harry wandered over, towel now draped around his shoulders, and sat next to Neville. His voice still gravely from sleep, Harry happily said, "Viola, you've no idea what a life-saver you are. I can't believe I'm actually ready to go before ten!"
"Yes, well," Neville chuckled, still unused to a woman's voice coming out of his mouth and absolutely not noticing that Harry's bare foot was dangerously close to his own heel, "one does tend to get out of bed rather quickly when a glass of water's been poured over one's head. You're sure you're not angry, Ha-- Mr Potter?"
Harry laughed and sat back, shaking his head. "Not at all. You're something like a breath of fresh air around here. I know this is going to sound completely weird, but it feels like I've known you forever." Neville quickly glanced down as Harry shook his head in amazement. "So, I'm up! What's our day look like?"
"Not too bad, truthfully. I woke you up because you have a meeting with the Puddlesmere staff at eleven, but you're free after that."
"Great!" Harry exclaimed, jumping up. "Is there any way you could do a favour for me then?"
"I'm pretty sure that's my job," Neville said and grinned.
"Yes, but this isn't part of the normal job description. I need you to deliver a letter for me." Harry ran out of the room for a moment, leaving a bewildered Neville still on the sofa. When he returned, he was clutching a large envelope, decorated with hearts, shooting stars, and what seemed to be a terrible drawing of a Snitch, enchanted to move about the envelope's surface. "Could you take this to Draco Malfoy? I'd send it by owl, but it's rather important that it get to him as soon as possible, and I'd deliver it myself, but he won't see me...." Harry trailed off, chuckling uneasily.
Neville stood, taking the letter from Harry, feeling his heart drop into his stomach. This was obviously a love letter. "M-malfoy?" Neville stammered.
"Yes. Quidditch fan?"
"Not exactly. I know him by reputation." And because he tortured me in school, Neville added silently.
Harry gazed intently at Neville for a moment. Voice inflected with a passion that he'd previously lacked, he said, "If you mean his father, don't. Draco's different."
Neville knew that, of course. Malfoy's defection was legendary, but that didn't mean Neville particularly liked him. Looking down, he managed to trip over his feet though he wasn't moving, Harry grabbing him about the shoulders to steady him. When Neville looked up, their eyes locked and they stayed that way for a moment, a shiver running down Neville's spine. Quickly, he jumped back, swearing to himself. Why did women's robes have to be so much...tighter...than men's?
"Are you okay?" Harry's eyes were dark with concern.
"Fine, fine," Neville replied, a little too quickly to be the truth. "Wait a minute." Something just occurred to him. "Why won't Draco Malfoy see you?"
"He's not exactly thrilled by my advances."
Neville ignored the little surge of hope in his chest. "So what makes you think Draco would see me? I do work for you, after all."
"Well, we already share a management team, so that's not a problem. Besides," Harry said, grinning now, "I may not be attracted to them, but I know a pretty woman when I see one. You're blonde, you've got gorgeous eyes, and -- despite my reluctance to mention this, since I'm not particularly looking for a sexual harassment suit -- an arse that won't quit."
Neville blushed crimson at this, hardly offended. All the things Harry had mentioned were Neville's, after all, and he couldn't help feeling a bit flattered. "Not going to sue you," he murmured.
"So, that's the idea. Send a pretty girl because, apparently, he only likes women." Harry couldn't disguise the disbelief in his voice.
"Likes women?" Neville asked incredulously.
"Exclusively?" The mind boggled.
"I'm hoping not."
Neville's little flare of hope died as his heart sunk again, but he was determined to complete his task. Besides, this might help in his mission. Protecting Harry was his job, yes, but Malfoy was a traitor and as much in the public eye as his own client, so the errand might help Neville in the long run.
He wasn't doing this because it would make Harry happy.
It was just his job.
When Remus strolled into Malfoy Manor, Hermione nearly tackled him. "Remus," she admonished, her tone scandalised, "you've been missing for two days! Where have you been?"
Remus just shook his head slightly. "I'm not at liberty to say." Off her look, he said, "You know I would if I could, but there are more things than this job." Hermione arched her eyebrows. It seemed that not everyone present held that particular belief, but Remus offered no further information, causing Hermione to become huffy.
"Malfoy's been asking for you, specifically, you know. We couldn't produce you and Harry's obsessive behaviour hasn't stopped at all, so he's completely livid. I'd be shocked if our employment lasted through the rest of the day! You know we need his money--" Just then, the parlour door swung open, revealing Draco and Snape. "--which is typically donated to charity, so keep up the good work, Remus!" Hermione prayed that Draco hadn't caught more than the last few words of their conversation.
Snape surveyed the scene, distaste evident by the sneer on his face. Eyeing Remus, he drawled, "Draco, when did you start letting rabid dogs in off the street?" Having remained close with his former pupil, Snape was spending the summer holidays at the Manor, making the already miserable situation far worse. With Snape and Malfoy in the same place, Hermione and Ron had decided it was rather like being back in Potions, only they were now in Malfoy's employ. Far worse in a number of respects.
Draco's eyes narrowed dangerously when he saw Remus and, ignoring Hermione completely, he stalked straight over to Remus. "Lupin, when I hire help, I typically want them to work for me. Where the hell have you been?" Finally acknowledging Hermione, he jerked his head in her direction. "While you've been off gallivanting God-knows-where, I've been stuck with your incompetent partners." Hermione bit her lower lip, counting backwards from ten. "Care to explain yourself?"
Remus smiled mildly. "No, Draco, not particularly."
Draco's jaw hung a bit, momentarily silencing him, but he quickly recovered and started ranting, "Well, it's not as though I might need my agent for any particular reason, is it?" When he failed to elicit any reaction from Remus, Draco said, "That was sarcasm, just in case you idiots missed it. Taking my money elsewhere sounds pretty good right about now." Hermione opened her mouth to protest or, perhaps, to start some good old-fashion sucking up, but Remus held up a hand. Draco went on, "You know, agencies would line around the block for my endorsement deals! I can't believe the level of incompetence with which you people force me to deal. This is unacceptable. I am a Malfoy! If Father was around--"
"He'd kill you for being a blood traitor?" Remus's expression was still one of detached amusement.
Draco didn't say anything for a moment, Snape looking very smug about the whole thing. He made no secret of his distaste for both Draco's career and his choice in employees. Then, a smile cracked Draco's face and he started laughing. "God, I've missed you, Lupin," he said, still laughing. "Always the voice of reason."
Hermione breathed a sigh of relief, Remus smiled as Draco slung an arm around his shoulders, and Snape seethed, his hatred barely concealed. Staring at Draco and Remus, Snape clenched and unclenched his fists, and spat, "I will never understand your motives for keeping him around!" Snape spun around, exiting amidst a flurry of robes.
The three of them gaped at the empty space where Snape stood a moment ago. "...Anyway," Hermione said after a few seconds, "we actually have a reason to be here, aside from melodramatic speeches and exits. You have a photo shoot at two. It looks like your poster is finally going to happen and, apparently, you're 'Mr January' for the Wasps swimsuit calendar."
Draco nodded his approval. "I'm definitely a winter. I mean, whose big idea was it to make me June last year?"
Hermione shook her head and offered a tight-lipped smile. "Tonight there's a banquet for St. Mungo's and it's--"
Crack! "Mister Draco Malfoy has a visitor," announced the newly-arrived house elf.
"Who is it?"
"A messenger from Mister Harry Potter the Great, sir!" the elf said proudly.
Anger crossed Draco's pale features, "Oh, don't you dare call him that in here." The house elf cowered, but Draco just grew impatient. "Well, go on. Send him in!"
The house elf nodded, but corrected, "She, sir," before disappearing again.
A moment later, the parlour door opened again and a bewildered Neville entered, openly gaping at the mansion's opulence. Making a slow circle, he stared up at the high ceilings, meekly waving at portraits that greeted him with more enthusiasm than he would have expected from Malfoys. However, he didn't notice the one Malfoy who was openly staring at him, a predatory look on his face. Draco looked at Hermione and Remus. "You two. Out. Now."
Remus casually strolled towards the exit, while Hermione protested, "But we have to--"
"Out," Draco repeated. It wasn't a request. Hermione hustled out after Remus, nodding at Harry's new assistant on the way out, thinking Ron was right -- the poor girl couldn't walk at all.
Once his management team had gone, Draco wasted no time rushing to Neville's side. "Hello," he said smoothly, lifting Neville's hand and kissing it lightly. "Draco Malfoy. Charmed to make your acquaintance, Miss...?"
Neville's eyes widened. "Viola. Well, not Miss, just Viola. It's not my last name, it's my first," he babbled, clutching Harry's envelope to his (prohibitively large) chest.
"So, Potter sent you, eh?" Draco made a small circle around Neville, making Neville feel uncomfortably like prey. "Is he as much of a pain in the arse to work for as I hear?"
Neville shook his head, golden ringlets smacking him in the face. "Oh, no! He's wonderful. I'm really enjoying working for him."
"I pay my employees more," Draco said, lightly running his fingertips over Neville's arm.
Neville swallowed nervously. "It's not the money. I just like helping him, I suppose."
"I suspect he needs a lot of help." Draco started tracing shapes on the inside of Neville's wrist. "Anyway, enough about Potter. Tell me about yourself." Neville opened his mouth, planning to use the cover story he and Percy had concocted, but Draco interrupted, "Did you know I've been voted Witch Weekly's Most Eligible bachelor for the past two years?"
"No, I didn't kn--"
"And I'm starting Seeker for the Winbourne Wasps."
"That's really very interesting, Mr Malfoy, but I'm here to deliver this pack--"
"You're beautiful, did you know that?"
"What?" Neville asked, his voice even higher than it had been moments earlier. Draco gently tugged Neville's arm, so they now faced one another. Neville almost tried pulling away, but he stopped when confronted with the lust darkening Draco's eyes. Draco leaned in, only giving Neville time for one squeak to escape before Draco's lips pressed to his. Neville planned on pulling away, he really did, but Draco had incredibly soft lips and it'd been an awfully long time since he'd last been kissed like this, so Neville let his eyes flutter shut and his mouth open slightly so Draco's tongue could massage his own.
Oh, Neville thought, suddenly wanting to press his body close to Draco's. Wait. Neville suddenly remembered what body he was in, the person he really cared about, and the million reasons why he couldn't do this with Draco. He pulled away, leaving Draco suddenly confused -- Neville doubted Draco was used to not getting what he wanted. Pushing the envelope containing Harry's letter into Draco's hands, he quickly ran off, saying, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I can't do this!" as he went.
Draco dropped the envelope, watching Potter's assistant dash away, and gently touched his own lips, which still tingled from the kiss. "Blinky! Er, Binky! Er, Twinky! Er, Inky, Pinky, Clyde, whatever your name is! Get in here." The house elf appeared again. "That girl who was just here -- Viola. She works for Harry Potter." Draco pulled the ring bearing the Malfoy crest from his pinkie finger and handed it to the elf. "Make sure she gets this as a token. Lovely girl," he mused, still caressing his mouth. "Horrible name, but lovely girl. I definitely wish to see...more of her." The house elf nodded and Disapparated, leaving Draco to contemplate this most unusual turn of events.
A man and a woman Apparated to one of the Ministry's safe zones, both exhausted due to the inevitable crash of adrenaline. It hadn't even been twenty-four hours since the spectacular POW break, freeing at least twenty prisoners, and then alerting the Brazilian authorities to the whereabouts of the Death Eaters' klatch. Rumour had it that they'd been literally caught with their trousers down. Who knew Death Eaters played strip poker to pass the time?
The dark-skinned man gazed around the barren enclosure. "This is where you live," said Antonio in his slight Spanish accent. "I admit, dear girl, that I've always wanted to see London, but this wasn't exactly what I had in mind."
Luna dropped her bag to the ground and settled on top of it. With some effort, she turned her head and focused on Antonio, her blue eyes wide. "Not all of London looks like this," she said earnestly. "Some places have pictures on the wall. And there's outside, too."
"Oh, so you have outside in England?" Antonio chuckled. Luna amused him in ways he couldn't quite explain, but he supposed sharing a tiny cell for weeks on end could have that effect on a person. "I'd never have guessed."
"We can see it," Luna promised. "I want to submit my resignation, though. There's just no way I can keep doing this so soon after..." Luna trailed off, looking helpless.
Immediately, Antonio dropped to Luna's side, comfortingly slinging an arm over her in a friendly gesture. "Shh, what happened isn't your fault; you did everything you could to help your partner before we were captured. You take all the time you need, but I know Neville would want you happy." Luna nodded, burying her face in Antonio's sleeve. "Have you thought about what you want to do in the meantime?"
Luna wiped at her eyes. "I really don't know yet, Antonio. Daddy asked me to go on a search for the Kiamako not long ago, but I was hoping to see some of my old friends and perhaps I might work for one of them? Some of them own an agency and I know Harry Potter lives--"
"The Harry Potter?" Antonio said, mouth agape.
"-- nearby," continued Luna, seemingly oblivious to the interruption. "Maybe he has a position on staff. I don't know a lot about Quidditch, but I do know that the Whirlygig Snidget is far superior to the common variety and perhaps that design could be incorporated into the way the game is played today." Luna stood and hauled her bag over her shoulder again. "Let's go -- we can rest first and then we'll go see Harry."
Antonio nodded, scooping up his own bag. Admittedly, he was a bit nervous about meeting a celebrity, but mostly he just wanted to follow Luna. It was nice to have a friend.
The wretched House Elf tore across the grounds like a bat out of hell. Snape glimpsed a shiny something and wrinkled his forehead in distaste. Had a Niffler been bred with an elf? He hadn't realised the tiny servants had any propensity for thievery. Lazily drawing his wand, he immobilised the elf and plucked the shiny thing from its disturbingly long fingers.
Examining the object, the wrinkle in his forehead grew deeper. A ring? He freed the frozen wretch, who trembled in fear. "Speak, elf!" he demanded. "What makes you think you could steal from the Malfoy home and escape unscathed."
"Oh!" shouted the creature, dropping to its knees. "I is scathed, good sir Snapey! Very scathed! Tinky-Winky is only giving this to Miss Viola who works for Harry Potter the Gr-- the Harry Potter, sir! Master Malfoy told me!" Tinky-Winky stared up with watery blue eyes, cringing as though afraid of Snape.
Snape held the ring up to the sun. Ostentatious and yellow-gold, Snape noticed in some distaste. Potter had probably been trying to pawn off some cheap bauble on Draco in another ill-fated attempt to win his love -- the very ridiculousness of the situation was enough to make Snape snort. "I shall make sure to give the ring to the chit," he said, waving away Tinky-Winky. "Go on, now."
Tinky-Winky wrung her hands. "But Master Malfoy told--"
"I said, I'd take care of it." He stared down the elf for a moment before making an exasperated shooing motion with his hands.
"Right away, Mister Snapey!" She Disapparated with a crack.
"And stop calling me that!" he called after the long-gone elf.
Neville hadn't returned to Harry's right away, preferring to stroll about the Malfoy grounds. He'd needed time to think, what with his long-hidden feelings for Harry suddenly at the surface, Luna's disappearance, and the kiss with Malfoy. Plus, it never hurt to practise walking.
Just as he thought he'd gotten the hang of heel-toe-heel-toe, he fell flat on his face because an all-too-familiar voice was suddenly calling his -- Viola's -- name. Spitting out some dirt, he found himself face-to-shoe with Snape. "H-hullo, Pro-professor Snape," Neville stammered, cursing because he sounded like some first year being drilled about asphodel.
Snape arched an eyebrow and extended his hand. Surprised, Neville took it and struggled up, brushing the dirt from his front once he'd been righted.
His former professor eyed him suspiciously. "Do I know you?"
"No!" Neville replied, a bit too quickly. He attempted to compose himself. "No, not personally. I attended Beauxbatons and studied briefly in Germany, but I never attended Hogwarts. Mr Potter speaks of you."
"Still?" Snape replied, smirking. "How long does it take one to get over childhood traumas?"
With a bladder threatening to spill at any moment and the vivid memory of a smoking hunk of pewter that had once been a cauldron at the forefront, Neville didn't feel like he should be the one answering that question. "Did you need something, sir?"
"Your...boss," he sneered, "gave Mr Malfoy an incredibly tacky ring. He wishes it be returned to Potter." Snape dropped the ring into Neville's outstretched hand.
"But this isn't..." Neville was quite sure the contents of the letter hadn't contained a ring -- especially not a ring small enough to fit a woman's finger, at least. The memory of Draco's lips on his own resurged and he suddenly understood. This ring was meant for him. For Viola. He looked at Snape and held up the ring. "If this ring was truly meant for Mr Malfoy, then it should stay with Mr Malfoy. I wasn't hired to run errands for him." He handed the ring back to Snape.
"I assure you, Draco has no use for this." Snape grimaced, then dropped the ring on the ground. "I have a feeling that had you attended Hogwarts, there would be a very good chance you would have been in Gryffindor." The Potions master took off in a swirl of robes, temporarily granting Neville relief.
Once Snape was out of sight, Neville bent to scoop up the ring. Draco had feelings for him. A Malfoy had feelings for him. Neville couldn't help feeling a little sorry for Draco, but the timing was all wrong. Well, that, and the fact that Neville wasn't actually a girl. What a mess. Three days and he was already in love with his boss who was in love with the man who felt...whatever it was for Neville. Neville desperately hoped that three more days would straighten this all out.
"Shhhh," Ginny whispered loudly, holding a finger to her lips. "Gotta be quiet," she slurred to Ron, while being anything but herself. "Draco's a very light sleeper."
"And you know this how?" Ron demanded, stumbling a bit and leaning on his sister for support. He wasn't quite sure how they'd found themselves outside of Malfoy Manor at this time of night, but here he was.
Ginny beckoned Ron closer, giggling. "'Cuz I watch him sleeping, of course."
"You stink of whiskey!" He made an exaggerated gesture with his hand. "Or is that me?"
"Yes!" cried Ginny, very nearly managing an answer. "Ron, Ronnie...why doesn't Draco love me?"
"Because you're a stinking drunk and he's a prat!"
"So are you!"
"A drunk or a prat?"
"No, I am not. I was...I was just...keeping my sister company...not a drunk." He jumped back and pointed a finger. "I'll tell Mum."
"Liar." Ginny took a step backwards and stumbled, landing on the ground. Unconcerned, she tore up patches of colour-change grass. "Pretty!" she exclaimed as pink and blue grass floated through the air. "Ron, let's sing that song we used to sing, k?"
Ron plopped down next to her and nodded enthusiastically, making himself dizzy. "How dry I am...," he began singing at the top of his lungs.
"Not that one!" Ginny dissolved into helpless giggles, which soon became hiccoughs.
"My waaand is big and made of wood!
Polish it, polish it, polish it g--"
Ginny shrieked and hit him. "No!" She tried locating her watch. "What time is it?"
"About midnight," Remus answered, emerging out of the shadows. "What on earth are you two doing?"
"We're...uh, we're...Ginny?" Ron glanced at his sister, who shrugged.
"Visiting?" she suggested. Tone growing accusatory, she pointed at Remus and shouted, "And what are you doing here?"
"Hermione and I had a meeting with Draco," Remus replied, a vague smile playing on his lips. "You know him -- he's our client. The client whose lawn you're currently tearing up."
"Pretty!" Ginny exclaimed again, throwing up another handful of grass. Ron spit out a mouthful of purple and puce fauna.
Hermione chose just that moment to exit. When she saw the scene being played out on the grass, she rushed to shut the door. "What is going on here?"
Remus gestured at their partners. "I believe they're drunk...and eating grass, it would seem."
"I wanted to see Draco," said Ginny cheerfully, waving a golden blade in front of her eyes. "Ron just wanted to bother him."
"That sounds plausible," said Hermione, just as Ron hotly said, "I did not!"
Remus helped Ginny to her feet, while Hermione did the same with Ron. Hermione had considerably more trouble. "We have to get out of here," she insisted. "Snape's still up and he likes strolling around the grounds at night."
"The guy's more effective than a guard dog!" Ron yelled in a moment of drunken clarity.
"I've been told that," said a deep voice coming from somewhere off to the side.
Ron's head whipped in Snape's direction, a befuddled expression on his face. "Where do you people keep coming from?"
"I am a guest in this home, unlike everyone else currently loitering here." Snape circled the group, sneering at them all. "Drunken employees? I daresay Draco would love to hear about this."
"Because you've never been drunk," said Remus in almost accusatory tones. He stared at Snape, his eyes flicking up and down. "Isn't that right, Severus?"
Snape sniffed distastefully. "I've certainly never shown this level of decorum. Be assured, I'll be telling Draco about this." He stalked off, scowling the entire way.
Hermione, Ron, and Ginny shrugged at each other, while Remus grinned at Snape's retreating form. "I'm going to go remind Severus about his usual levels of decorum. Good-night, all. Try not to spend it squatting on Draco's grounds." He walked away, whistling tunelessly as he went.
Once Remus was out of sight, Ginny declared, "Snape's a jerk!"
"Yeah!" said Ron. "Malfoy, too!"
"HE IS NOT," screamed Ginny.
"Oww." Ron clutched at his ears. "Fine, just Snape. So, let's get him!"
"Yeah!" They both looked up at Hermione, who stared at them both for a very long time. And stared. And stared. Just as Ron had decided she was going to turn them down flat, she threw up her hands. "Oh, hell, why not? He's been tormenting me for over ten years now."
Ron pumped a fist into the air. "Hermione, you rule!" In reply, Hermione blushed a bit. "So," Ron said eagerly. "What are we going to do?"
Deep in thought, Hermione bit the nail on her index finger, reminding Ron of the way she used to bite the ends of her Sugar Quills. "How about we forge a note from Draco to Snape, declaring he loves him? Or, better yet, how about we make it a secret admirer note? We can make him do whatever he wants!"
"Malfoy's. Not. Gay!" Ginny insisted. "And, for that matter, how do we know Snape is? I always pictured him a eunuch -- I mean, of all the people I don't want to picture having sex, he's right up there."
"Doesn't matter," said Hermione, spreading out her arms. "I think he'll be flattered if he thinks it's from Draco and I'm sure the millions of Galleons Draco happens to possess simply sweeten the deal."
"Snape's gay?!" asked Ron, right before he passed out.
"Yes?" Neville swung around in his desk chair and faced Harry, who was hanging backwards off the back of his sofa, his cheeks bright red because of the rush of blood to his face. And, dear God, did he ever wear a shirt? Neville admired the smooth, stretched expanse of skin and tried not imagining what it would feel like to run his hands over it.
"Have you ever been in love?"
"Yes," Neville answered instantly. His face suddenly felt hot. "Why do you ask?"
Harry draped his forearm over his eyes in a needlessly dramatic gesture. "Is it always this painful?"
"Only if you keep hanging upside down like that." Neville stood and pulled Harry up by the arms, righting him, then sat down alongside him. "But, no, I don't expect it's always painful. I think it's the unrequited business that causes that -- you know, the real scoop out your heart with a rusty spoon and dance a little jig part."
The colour slowly drained away from Harry's face. "You sound like you know what you're talking about," he said, watching Neville carefully.
"I might just," Neville replied, shifting awkwardly. "But who doesn't?"
"No, no, of course nearly everyone knows what that feels like. The way you talk, though...it sounds like it's still raw, right at the surface." Neville grew uncomfortable under Harry's intense gaze, but couldn't quite bring himself to look away. "You're in love, too, aren't you?" Harry's voice was soft, placating; he'd finally found a compadre in his suffering.
"I don't think that's an appropriate question, Mr Potter." Neville moved to get up, but Harry lightly grabbed his wrist.
"I'm sorry, Viola, you're right, of course. I was just going to ask what he was like." Harry smiled and Neville felt himself melt a little. "But you don't have to answer."
Neville sighed, nervously running his fingers through his hair. They got a bit tangled because of the length and, frustrated, he roughly pulled them away. "I overreacted, sorry. He's...well, I've known him for an awful long time -- my whole life, practically. We were at school together and, as far as I know, he's never taken any more than a platonic interest in me."
"Jerk!" Harry declared. "He doesn't know what he's missing. Hell, if I were straight, I'd be tempted to take you right here on this couch!" Neville gave a strangled laugh as a fantasy of just that played in his mind. Harry leaned forward, suddenly eager. "Okay, onto the good stuff...what's the bloke look like? Ten to one says he's not good enough for you."
Neville's laugh was genuine this time. "Uhm, well, he's about your height..."
"Far too short."
"Blonds are much more fun."
"Very nice eyes, athletic..."
"Ah, the brain-dead, meathead type!" Harry unconsciously traced the Puddlesmere logo etched onto a nearby pillow.
"No, he's quite smart. A little oblivious to others, maybe, but very smart, all the same."
"And the body?" Harry stretched out, flinging an arm along the back of the sofa.
Neville gulped as his attention was brought to that bare chest again, letting his eyes wander to the flat stomach, decorated by a faint trail of hair that maddeningly stopped where Harry's loose trousers began. "Good," he squeaked. "Very, very good."
Harry crossed his arms, pouting. "Well, I still say he's not good enough for you. And really, I suggest you stick with blonds," he said, reaching over to tug one of Neville's curls. "You should know they have more fun." As Harry pulled away, Neville ignored the brush of Harry's fingertips over his cheek.
They both jumped when the familiar strains of 'God Save the Queen' chimed loudly, indicating Harry had a visitor. Grabbing his wand, Harry cast a charm, revealing Remus Lupin as his guest, something which made Neville a bit nervous. He'd seen Remus briefly at Malfoy Manor and he knew he wasn't particularly recognisable, but -- rather irrationally -- he thought Remus might be able to see through the guise. Neville had always considered his former professor incredibly perceptive.
Harry jumped up to answer the door, returning a moment later with Remus following, a rather large packet of papers in hand.
"What are those?" Harry asked, flopping back down on the couch.
"Endorsement deal with those winged shoe people," Remus said. "Sign those now; we have to give them a proper answer by tomorrow."
Harry settled at Neville's desk, licking the tip of a quill and dipping it in the inkwell. "Not that I'm not glad to see you, but these could have been just sent by owl, you know."
Remus snorted. "And have them sit around this place for two weeks, get buried under a pile of underpants, then disappear suddenly? No, Harry, I've learned my lesson with you -- important papers get the personal treatment. Sign everywhere there's an X."
"There are a million Xs," Harry complained, but busied himself with the paperwork. Remus took Harry's place on the couch and stared at Neville. Neville became very occupied with examining the top of his shoes.
"How are things working out for you here, Viola?" Remus bent slightly, trying to peer through the curtain of hair that Neville had created.
"Oh, not bad," Neville mumbled, still fascinated by his footwear.
"Mmm. And I hope Harry's not sending you off to Draco's manor too often then?"
"Just the once."
Remus nodded. "So, you've not witnessed Draco's dour mood."
Harry swung around so fast Neville was shocked he didn't get whiplash. "What mood?"
"He's been moping around like a lovesick puppy for the past week." Remus glanced knowingly between Neville and Harry. "Rather reminds me of you, Harry."
Seemingly ignoring -- or perhaps missing -- the jibe, Harry flung the quill aside and stared at Remus. "For the past week? Do you suppose it's about my letter?" Neville's stomach sank at the brightness of Harry's eyes, both because of his own warring emotions and remembering the kiss he and Draco shared.
Remus stood in one fluid motion and wandered over to Harry's side. "No idea, Harry. Probably not the best idea to get your hopes up again. Sign here and here," he said, pointing to places in the contracts. Once Harry had done so, Remus scooped up the papers and bid them a good day, staring at Neville for a moment too long before exiting.
Once he'd walked Remus out, Harry practically bounded into the room, rising up and down on the balls of his feet. "Oh, this is definitely a good sign, Viola! A whole week with him pining...it has to be over me, doesn't it?" Harry dashed towards his bedroom without waiting for an answer and Neville grimaced, feeling incredibly guilty.
When Harry returned, he carried a delicate, golden phoenix that fluttered and hopped along his palm. "This was my dad's," Harry told Neville. "I got it once I turned eighteen and the rest of the Potter inheritance came to me." He grabbed Neville's wrist and deposited the phoenix into Neville's hand. The phoenix tickled his palm. "She's beautiful, isn't she?"
Neville nodded, admiring the tiny thing. "What do you want me to do with it?"
"Give it to Draco, of course. Tell him where it's from and what it means -- he's probably just testing me and waiting for me to make the next move. I want to show him I'm really serious about this."
"Mr Potter, do you really think it's wise to do this? How many times has Mr Malfoy rejected you now?" Neville stroked the animated jewellery with his index finger.
Harry's expression soured. "Viola, I don't think this is really your place."
"You're probably right. But, as someone who's been burned by love pretty much continually for the past five years, I can speak with some authority on this -- if it's meant to be, it's meant to be. You can't force it or else you waste away pining over something that's completely unattainable until you reach the point where you have to run away." Neville couldn't bring himself to meet Harry's eyes anymore as something in his chest contracted painfully.
"But that's you," Harry replied, his voice not unkind. "Please deliver that to Draco? I trust you with it."
Neville sighed. "All right." The knot in his chest didn't loosen.
"Quick, we haven't much time. I'm going to disallusion you." Hermione hustled Ginny and Ron and cast the spell on them both, Ron shivering as the cold, runny egg feeling travelled down the length of his spine. The effect was good, though; when they were done, Ron and Ginny perfectly matched the outside of Malfoy's hedge maze. "Snape just told Malfoy he's going out for a walk, which means he'll probably patrol the grounds like a trained guard dog."
"You're not staying?" Ron asked, disappointed.
"Ron," sighed Hermione, "I already told you. I distract Malfoy, while Snape takes the bait. When I walk away, I'm going to drop the note in clear sight, where any nosy--"
"That's Snape, all right."
"Hush, Ron." She continued, "Where anyone would pick it up and, hopefully, read it." Hermione reached into her robe pocket and removed a slightly worn piece of grey paper, decorated with a green border.
"Slytherin colours," Ginny nodded appreciatively. "Nice touch."
Hermione beamed. "The letter says someone is in love with someone else and, without naming names, I made it sound as much like Snape as possible." She grimaced. "Trust me, writing even a fake love letter to Snape was no easy task. You two are getting off lightly." Ron and Ginny exchanged a high five causing Hermione to roll her eyes.
The sound of dead leaves crunching underfoot was heard and Ron loudly whispered, "Oi, someone's coming!"
Hermione nodded and sighed heavily. "All right, back to Malfoy." Daintily dropping the note on the ground, she flashed the Weasleys a quick thumbs-up before heading back inside.
Ron and Ginny had just taken their places -- flattening themselves as far against the bush as possible -- when, sure enough, Snape approached, still scowling even though he was all alone. Confirming Hermione's suspicions, Snape spotted the letter laying on the dirt path, pausing only momentarily to look all around him before scooping it up.
"I wonder what fool left this around," Snape said aloud as he opened the note.
Speaking out of the corner of his mouth, Ron muttered to Ginny, "The fool talks to himself."
"So do you!" Ginny hissed back.
"That's different! I'm yelling at the radio."
"Well, it's not as though they can hear you, is it?" Ginny asked sensibly. "Same as talking to yourself."
"Is not." Ron crossed his arms, which really lost its impact what with him being camouflaged and all. "Just insulting the Cannons' staff."
"Shut up and watch!"
Snape had been completely absorbed in Hermione's letter, seemingly oblivious to Ginny and Ron's bickering a few feet away. His eyes had grown comically wide and his mouth hung slightly open as he silently moved his mouth with the words. "Merlin!" he suddenly exclaimed. "'...I can't speak of my dark god's love, as age and rules of common decency discourage it. He knew my father and I wish he truly knew me, I could stop hiding from the taboos of lust, age, and sex...S.O.L.S. did truly change my life. If he were to sweep me off my feet, I would be his forever.'"
Ron nearly doubled over with laughter. "God, where does Hermione come up with this crap?"
Snape paced back and forth, an agitated expression on his gaunt face. "'Knew my father'? 'Dark god'?" Snape looked down at the letter again, then back up. "But, it couldn't be about me...and it certainly couldn't be Draco..."
"No, it couldn't," Ginny said stubbornly.
Staring intently, Snape nearly bore a hole through the paper. "And what is 'S.O.L.S.'?"
"Shit-out-of-luck Slytherin?" Ginny suggested.
Proudly, Ron said, "That was mine."
"The 'S' could be me, certainly, but those aren't my middle initials. Draco knows that; I have nearly as many given names as he does. But the rest is so familiar! And who else could it possibly be about?"
Ginny was fuming. "Kind of full of ourselves, aren't we?"
"Damn, I need to find out their middle names."
"Couldn't be any worse than Bilius."
"Shut up, Ginny."
Snape began reading the letter again. "'I need him to make the first move. Oh! If only he'd do as I asked, I'd be his forever. As that Squib the Muggles loved once said, Some are born great, some achieve greatness, some have greatness thrust upon them. I'd know he loved me if he demonstrated it -- if he made my staff miserable --' That's simple enough '-- but do so with a smile on his face, always. Oh, how lovely I can only imagine his smile must be. Also, I want him to wear some colour for once. Perhaps yellow robes --'" Snape made a face. "Yellow? '-- and, perhaps, he might indulge my innermost fantasies by wearing nothing underneath, save for a pair of matching women's stockings and underthings.'"
Ron closed his eyes in pain. "Uh, is Hermione trying to embarrass Snape or kill us?"
His only reply was Ginny thoughtfully muttering, "Men in women's underwear..."
Snape nearly dropped the letter, shocked. "Insolent boy! How could he have been harbouring these feelings for me, yet too afraid to tell me? And why would he be afraid of showing off his kinky side? We're Slytherins, for heaven's sake. I'll do it; I shall win Draco's love. After all, he's a far better person than his father, the money doesn't hurt, and, by God, can he handle a broom." Snape hustled back to the house, still clutching the letter in his potion-stained hand.
As soon as Snape was out of earshot, Ron let out a whoop of laughter. "Man, I could marry Hermione for that! Ten of the most entertaining minutes of my life."
"Your life's kind of sad, Ron."
"Shut up, Ginny."
Ginny ended the Disallusionment Charm on them both, just as Hermione came outside again. Hermione looked at them expectantly. "Well? How did it go?"
"Perfectly." Ron took two strides, picking Hermione up and spinning her in a circle. Eagerly, he said, "Snape fell for it, hook, line, and sinker. Time to reel him in."
Hermione gave an uncharacteristic squeal of delight, the noise making Ron's heart skip a beat as he placed her on the ground again. "Malfoy's going to freak. He's been moping around so much that the merest hint of a smile will make him go ballistic -- Snape probably thinks it's because Malfoy's mooning over him. And if Snape dares bully Remus, Malfoy will be even more peeved. Ooh," she said, clapping her hands. "I can't wait to see this!"
"And what's the explanation for the women's underwear?" Ron asked, making a face at Ginny.
Hermione chuckled nervously. "Because it'd be, uh, funny."
"Funny," Ginny echoed.
"Seeing those long legs clad only in stockings? I'd be so...amused." Hermione pulled at her collar.
"Very," Ginny agreed.
"I will never understand women," Ron said, throwing up his hands.
"Probably not," Ginny nodded.
"Shut up, Ginny."
Draco sighed heavily and stared out his window, perfect hand leaning on the sill, attractively propping up his angular, chiselled jaw. He knew it was uncharacteristic of a Malfoy to behave in such an inappropriate manner. Emotions were a weakness -- a completely Gryffindor weakness, at that. It was just...well, women simply didn't run out on Draco Malfoy! And if they did, they certainly returned the next day. It'd been a week since he'd first laid eyes -- and lips -- on Viola and nary a peep. No wonder he'd taken to staring out into the middle distance.
"Miss Viola of the house of Harry Potter is here to see young Master," announced Tinky-Winky to Draco, who spun around, eyes alight.
"She's here?" Draco said. The elf nodded. "Well, go on then, shoo, you worthless little creature. Show her in!"
A moment later, the foyer door opened, Neville still clutching Harry's phoenix and looking very uncertain and, Draco thought, as beautiful as the last time he'd seen her. Oh, this was to be a mission, he decided.
Neville took a step forward, falling forward onto his face, deciding that Percy had been lying when he told him heels took practise. Draco was instantly at his side, smoothly helping Neville to his feet and not even mentioning his spill. Neville had to admit he was impressed by the gallant gesture, but with the way Draco was eyeing him, he knew Draco's intentions were anything but gentlemanly.
In, out, and over, Neville thought, holding the phoenix out to Draco. "I've been sent with this. Mr Potter wishes to gift you with this -- it's a family heirloom, given to him by his father," he said, silently adding 'you ungrateful prat.' The phoenix -- Neville had decided his name was Guy -- fluttered and hopped from Neville's hand to Draco's. Draco sneered and held the gift by its golden, mechanical wing.
"Viola, dear, please impress upon your employer that I desire no more of his gaudy gifts, though he may send his assistant any time he likes. You're most welcome here."
A blush crept up Neville's neck, a hot flush quickly spreading to his cheeks. "Thank you, Mr Malfoy, but I'd rather just complete my errand as requested."
Draco tossed Guy onto a nearby table, the now upside-down bird unhappily trying to right himself, then impeded on Neville's personal space. "I can't accept his gifts because I'm not interested in Harry Bloody Potter," Draco said haughtily. "I don't know if you've noticed, but it's you I'm interested in."
"Mr Malfoy," Neville began carefully, taking a step away, "I'm sorry about what happened the other night, but I think I gave you the wrong impression. I'm interested in another man..."
"Husband, then? Don't worry, I know all about discretion." He gently grabbed Neville's hand, laying a delicate kiss along Neville's knuckles.
Neville pulled away his hand as though it'd been burned. "No husband, either," he retorted, yanking his hand away.
"So you're not involved with anyone?"
"And this person you're involved with? Has he accepted your advances?"
"Not exactly," said Neville.
"Viola, let me help you forget him," breathed Draco, voice inflected with excitement that Neville had never heard from him, unless you count the time when he delightedly asked Crabbe (or was it Goyle?) to hold Neville over the toilet, while Draco walked away with a good deal of his candy stash from his Gran.
Neville shook his head, wondering how he could feel bad about dumping someone who'd made his life miserable on a near-daily basis. "I just can't forget about him, Mal...Mr Malfoy. It's probably not a good idea for us to see one another again." He turned to go, only to have Draco grab him by the wrist.
"Viola, if you agree to come see me again, maybe I can work out an arrangement with Potter."
Neville nodded, his heart soaring and plummeting simultaneously. Draco walked over to Guy and righted him, sweetly stroking it's metal plumage. "I just want to see Harry happy," said Neville.
"And I want nothing more to be happy myself."
"Can't say I'm surprised by that," Neville retorted, half-smiling, half-wracked with guilt. "Thank you, Mr Malfoy."
"Call me Draco."
"Thank you, Draco," Neville said, the name feeling awkward. "I'll give Harry your best." He walked out, not giving Draco a chance to stop him.
Ginny slammed the door to Ron's office, looking absolutely livid. When the first thought that went through his mind was 'What did I do now?', he considered the fact that maybe going into business with his sister might not have been the best possible decision. But, as it turned out, she wasn't angry with him...this time.
Ginny ranted, "What can he possibly see in her? Cheap, trashy, no-good floozy! Those breasts are positively fake and there's just no way that's her real hair-colour. I have half a mind to throw him on the floor and show him exactly what a real woman can do!" At least, that's what Ron thought she said -- she was talking very fast and kind of muttering, not to mention pacing all around his office and tugging at her hair. Oh-kay. Ron got up and held her by the shoulders.
"Ron, I'm going to kill her!"
"That...that girl. The one that works for Harry."
"Viola? What'd she do?" Ron was baffled. Harry could do nothing but praise the girl and she'd seemed perfectly lovely every time Ron had met her -- he should know, since he hired her.
Ginny looked like she was about to breathe fire, so Ron released her and stepped back a couple of paces, settling on the edge of his desk. "I just came from Malfoy's and that girl was rushing out of there. She popped away before I could ask her what was wrong, so I went inside to see Draco because he had to sign these." She held up an envelope. "When I got inside, Draco was staring at this ugly little mechanical whozewhatzit hopping all around and looking completely crushed."
"Ugly mechanical what?"
"Never mind that! He's in love with her. With Harry's slut assistant! And I'm just the girl who delivers paperwork to him." Ginny lay down on Ron's couch, flinging an arm over her face. Damn it. He knew he'd regret putting in that thing; everyone thought he was their bloody psychoanalyst. "That's it, I can't do this anymore! I can't work for him and I can't believe he'd want someone he's known all of two minutes when he could have what's been under his nose all along."
"He's not good enough for you," Ron murmured. Suddenly, the full impact of Ginny's words hit him. "Wait! Malfoy is after Harry's assistant?"
"Yes, Ron," Ginny said testily. "Keep up!"
"The same Harry who's desperately in love with Malfoy, too?"
Ginny sat up and covered her mouth with her hand. "Oh!"
"This is not good! Not good." He pointed an accusatory finger at his sister. "You are not allowed to quit, all right?" Ginny nodded, just as Hermione peeked her head inside.
Ron nodded. "Just a little out of sorts."
"I just came from Malfoy's."
"You too? God, why don't we just set up shop over there!" Ron threw his arms up in the air and sat at his desk, slamming his head on its surface.
Hermione looked mildly confused. "Uhm, it's good news?" Ron and Ginny stared at their partner expectantly. "Snape's a fast mover. He's smiling at everyone, being even nastier than usual to me -- I mean, he insulted my hair! Like he's one to talk." Ron nodded emphatically; he rather liked Hermione's hair, after all, and at least it wasn't greasy and stringy. Blech. "I'm here because I had to Apparate away after seeing him. There's no possible way any person could be expected to hold their laughter in for that much time."
Ron grinned, matching Ginny's expression, both seeing where Hermione was going with this. "Is he...?"
"Oh, yes. Snape. In bright yellow robes, periodically flashing a little ankle -- a fishnet clad ankle. I didn't even know they made yellow fishnet stockings!"
"Of course they do," Ginny said patiently. "They come in all colours."
Ron glared at her. "How would you know that? I'm going to tell Mum!"
"Oh, Ron, don't be such a prude."
Hermione quickly broke up the little argument before it could escalate. "Do you two want to see Snape making a complete fool of himself or not?"
"Yes!" Ron shouted and Ginny nodded, her problems momentarily forgotten. They all disappeared, showing up a moment later at Malfoy's front door.
Luna and Antonio settled into their rooms, Antonio patiently unpacking their things, while Luna did things like explore the mini-bar ("These are the tiniest bottles of Butterbeer I've ever seen!"), methodically pour the bottles of shampoo and conditioner down the drain ("Daddy tells me that there are brainwashing chemicals in hotel shampoo. Better to use our own.") and try out the complimentary grooming charms.
When Antonio heard the tell-tale whoosh of a Drying Charm, he called out, "I hear those work better if you're wet!"
Luna popped her head around the bend and regarded Antonio solemnly. "One can never be too dry," she informed her friend. "I know we came here so we could rest, but I'm not tired. Let's go sight-seeing! Or maybe we can explore the hotel -- I hear there are the tiny, toothless sea dragons that live in the pool here."
Antonio shook his head and collapsed on the bed. "No, I cannot, Luna. Where do you get this energy? The strain of the escape and we travelled so far, yet you want to explore in a city you've visited many times your whole life. Go ahead and take our expense money, though," he said, pointing to a small embroidered sack of gold provided by the Ministry. "But be careful, some of my things are in there."
Luna nodded and smiled slightly, pulling on her cloak. Before she left, she placed a kiss on Antonio's cheek. "Get some rest. Meet you for downstairs for dinner in two hours?" Antonio nodded, stroking the spot where Luna had kissed him once she'd gone.
"Where is that bloody house elf?" Draco asked, pacing all around his house. He'd sent one of the elves with the rhyming names (Jinky? Thinky? Or, God forbid, Stinky?) after Viola, but he still hadn't returned. Perhaps Viola hadn't returned to Potter's or perhaps he just had a bloody incompetent staff.
The latter he found much, much more likely. "Severus!" Draco bellowed, stalking through the halls, then again as he called up the stairs. He needed someone sensible; someone who would offer him an honest, brutal opinion and shake him into acting properly again. A moment later, Draco heard the soft pop of Apparition behind him and he spun around eagerly. Ah, austere Severus, who'd treat him like a student and who -- Draco's jaw dropped to the floor -- was wearing bright yellow, brocaded robes and a matching flowered hat.
Snape grinned merrily and pressed a spot on the hat so the flowers on the hat began spinning and singing. For the first time in quite a few years, Draco found himself completely speechless. "Se-severus?" he asked in a very small voice, sliding against the wall to the floor.
"Everything's just as expected. Well, not everything...the hat was an addition!" Snape announced, twirling around merrily, the slit down the front of his robes exposing a lot of leg. Draco felt vaguely ill. "Do you like it, my dear Draco?"
"You look...different," Draco said queasily. "Are you feeling quite all right?"
Snape's smile widened almost painfully as he beamed down at Draco. If not for the row of crooked teeth, Draco might think he'd met Professor Lockhart -- the same Professor Lockhart who was currently locked up in St. Mungo's. Draco mused that this could be an impostor, but what impostor would try to be so different from Severus? No one could possibly be that stupid.
Well, he reconsidered, he did spend seven years living with Crabbe and Goyle. "Severus, I can't recall -- what was father's fourth given name?"
"Aloysius," Snape replied instantly.
Hmm. Well, perhaps this was the real thing. Draco mused this over for awhile, decidedly not looking at the cross-hatched pattern pressing into Snape's shapely calf, nor the seam that rose up the back. Merlin, Severus had nicer legs than Viola. Hell, Severus had nicer legs than him! Suddenly angry, he jumped to his feet. "What's the meaning of all this?"
Severus grabbed Draco's hand, gallantly leaving a kiss atop it. "This is your S.O.L.S., Draco. I'm doing this to make you happy," he murmured against the pale, smooth skin.
Draco couldn't pull away his hand fast enough. Clenching his jaw, he angrily began, "I don't know what--"
Crack! "Miss Viola has returned with Jinky to the house of Malfoy!" announced the elf, then disappeared again.
Draco rushed off, flinging open the door, and finding Hermione, Ron, Ginny, and Remus standing there, Hermione mid-knock. "Do you people always travel in packs?" Draco said, annoyed, not waiting for an answer. "Never mind. I have a visitor -- I'll leave that madman who's replaced Severus in your hands." Draco pushed past them, elbowing Ron in the side on his way out.
"Away, peasants," Snape sneered, turning away from them. "Things are going well -- very well. Soon, I'll be here permanently and can convince Draco to get rid of you squandering, squatting Gryffindors." He sniffed in distaste.
Remus was laughing quietly, though his head was cocked to one side and tilted entirely too low to be focused on Snape's face. "You're looking very well, Severus."
"Piss off, Lupin."
Ron feigned shock and asked in exaggerated tones, "Oh, Professor! Whatever has happened to you?!" He dramatically covered his mouth with his hand, eyes wide.
"Stick to your day job," Ginny muttered out of the corner of her mouth. Then, louder, "Professor Snape, you must be so very tired. Perhaps some time at St. Mungo's would do you good?" She tried leading him by the elbow.
"I am perfectly fine, you stupid girl," he spat, pulling away. "I certainly don't need any of you incompetent boobs to look after me." Snape strode away as regally as one could in women's robes and a floppy hat, slamming the door behind him.
"Malfoy's going to commit him out of worry if he keeps this up," Ron said, delighted.
Remus looked a little put-out. "Now, we don't really want to cause Severus any permanent harm..."
"Two days at St. Mungo's isn't going to kill him. Maybe he'll come out of it a little more humble." Ron did a little dance.
"I still don't--" But Remus was never given a chance to finish his sentence as Draco returned with Neville, interrupting him.
"Hussy," Ginny pouted, glaring daggers at Neville.
Draco unfastened something hanging around his neck and handed it to Neville, who looked distinctly uncomfortable. He was speaking softly, but they all heard him say the words, "Malfoy family heirloom".
"It'll be okay," Hermione said, patting Ginny's arm comfortingly.
Ginny looked mad enough to spit. "I'll rip that bitch's hair out."
"Oh-kay," said Hermione slowly, taking a step away again.
"I have to go Ma-- Draco," said Neville. "Har-- Mr Potter needs me to go to Diagon Alley."
"Diagon Alley," Ginny muttered.
"Come back soon," Draco pleaded, smoothing back Neville's hair, not noticing when the disguised man flinched under the touch.
"Considering I was just here three hours ago, I consider it a distinct possibility." Only Hermione and Remus caught Neville's bitter tone.
Neville stumbled out then, Ginny hot on his heels. Ron flicked a worried look from Hermione to Ginny's retreating form. "I, uh, I better go -- I'm afraid she's going to hurt herself. Or Harry's assistant. Or both." He ran after them to catch up, just hearing Draco calling for Remus and Hermione as he went.
As soon as he was out the door, Ron heard two pops in quick succession and, remembering the assistant's destination, Apparated to Diagon Alley, where he found Ginny already piggybacking Neville, pulling hard on his hair. "This. can't. POSSIBLY. BE. REAL!"
"Ow!" cried Neville, trying to throw Ginny off his back. "Gin--Miss, what on earth ...?"
"What do you think you're doing, you little floozy? I've known him for years and you just waltz--" A hex hit Ginny squarely in the chest.
"Get off of her!" bellowed a deep voice belonging to a dark-haired man that Ron didn't recognise, before sending another hex in Ginny's direction. Both Neville and Ron went for their wands, ready to disarm them, when a patrolling Auror came along, breaking up the fight.
"What on earth's going on here?" The Auror clapped the stranger on the shoulder, who, reacting defensively, whirled around and stunned him.
"Oops. Uh, sorry," he said in accented speech, before casting the counter-hex. "Just a little on edge. This girl" -- he indicated Ginny -- "was attacking my friend." He pointed at Neville, who seemed bemused, but distracted, because he'd dropped his wand. "I was supposed to meet her in the hotel across the street for dinner in fifteen minutes. Antonio DeMarqueza. I'm based out of the Ministry in Brazil." Antonio began patting down his robes. "Oh, damn. My papers...they're with her. Luna, get my I.D. out of the money bag, por favor."
A befuddled expression on Neville's face, he said, "Me? I don't know you; I've never seen you before in my life."
The Auror's jaw was clenched. "Sir, I'm afraid I'll have to take you in. Impersonating a foreign Ministry official -- and without papers, even! Do you think I was born yesterday?"
Antonio looked crushed. He was gazing at Neville with some cross between hurt and hatred, muttering very rapidly in Spanish. "You are a terrible, terrible friend!" he shouted, just before the magical cuffs were placed on his wrists and he and the Auror disappeared.
Ginny hauled herself up, groaning. "Uh, sorry...Viola, was it? I have a bit of a temper, but I won't mess with your friends again."
"He wasn't my friend," Neville said, still confused.
"Yeah, he called you Luna, didn't she?" Ron rushed over and helped Neville to his feet. "Must be a bit out of his mind. The only Luna I know of is Loony Lovegood and I haven't seen her in years." Ginny nodded, agreeing with her brother.
"Luna," murmured Neville softly. Could his partner still be alive? Neville, suddenly hopeful, disappeared with a pop.
Harry anxiously waited around his flat, hoping Viola would return with news soon. He knew she'd had other errands to complete after seeing Draco, but maybe he could find her with a locator spell and get her back early. He'd done much to keep himself occupied while she'd been gone. He'd read, gone flying, caught up with some of his fan mail, and finally, in desperation, he'd flicked on the telly, which he kept as a tie to the Muggle world, only to find a load of truly boring soap operas, filled with men and women whining about their relationships.
With a derisive snort, he shut it off again. People didn't act like that in real life.
He'd just made the decision to write a love song, when the doorbell chimed. Forgetting to cast the Adventoris Aparecium, he rushed up to answer it, only to find a scowling, nervous-looking Draco Malfoy at his doorstep.
Draco stepped across the threshold, looking all around him for reasons Harry didn't quite understand. "Potter."
Of course, Harry had dreamed of the moment Draco Malfoy showed up at his door, unannounced, but when presented with the reality, he found himself a bit at a loss. "M-malfoy," he stammered intelligently. "Would you like anything? Tea, biscuits? I'm sure I can find you something. Can I take your cloak?"
"My assistant?" Harry felt quite confused. "Uhm, if not with you, then probably Diagon Alley. I expect her back soon, though. What did you want with her?"
"I'm in love with her," Draco stated matter-of-factly.
The blunt statement was like a Bludger to the chest, but not for the reasons Harry would have expected. He thought he should be angry that the plan of sending his assistant in his stead had backfired or that the rumours of Malfoy being straight weren't just rumours.
Instead, he felt protective. He didn't want to fire Viola or send her away. In fact, he pretty desperately wished she were there right now because he was really very confused and she showed quite the knack for straightening out his life (relatively speaking).
He knew he didn't want Draco to have her, nor her to have him, so he reacted the only way he could -- he backed Draco against a wall and kissed him.
Draco, whose lips were as soft as Harry would have expected, made a little noise of protest, but didn't push him away, instead opening his mouth allowing Harry better access. Harry waited for that rush of emotion, the spark, that he'd hoped for for so long, but nothing ever happened. Draco's tongue felt warm and rough against his, but it was merely pleasant and his thoughts were still on his assistant. He was kissing Draco and thinking of Viola. He pulled away, his face still very close to Draco's.
"So, she's not here then?" Draco seemed a little out-of-breath.
Harry shook his head mutely.
"Then, I suppose I'll just be going." In a daze, Draco stumbled out the door again.
Harry leaned his forehead against the door when Draco left, his feelings all jumbled and thoughts oscillating between Draco and Viola. What had just happened here?
Luna felt snubbed and a little upset. She'd returned to her hotel room and, finding Antonio gone, waited around the hotel lobby for nearly a half-hour before decided he'd completely blown her off. She was just starting to think he really liked her, too, but she supposed she was still too flighty for any one man.
Resigned not to feel sorry for herself, Luna decided now was as good a time as any to visit Harry. Checking the Ministry's unlisted records, she found his new address and Apparated to a point just outside his gates and running right smack into someone she thought was a very distraught-looking Draco Malfoy.
"Oh, I'm so glad to see you. You're beautiful," he said emphatically, circling her as though she were prey. Luna felt a little bit flattered. No one had ever called her beautiful, outside of Daddy, but she knew that didn't count. Lifting her hand, Draco placed a gentle kiss on it. "Say you'll come back to Malfoy Manor with me."
Well, it wasn't as though she had anything better to do. Luna shrugged. "Okay!" If this was some sort of dream, it was a very strange one.
Remus and Hermione exchanged a look, not quite sure how to deal with the situation on their hands. Draco had rushed out, seemingly in search of Harry's assistant, and left Snape in their care. He was willing to overlook Snape's weird behaviour until Snape goosed his arse in front of the staff, flashed his stocking-clad leg again, then called Remus a flea-ridden cur who deserved to be put down, amusing Remus, but only serving to further enrage Draco.
"He's mad!" Draco had shouted. "Shut him upstairs somewhere; I'm sure you'll be able to find one of Father's old holding cells up there. We'll deal with him when I get back." He sent a petrifying charm in Snape's direction, causing the professor to tumble to the floor and expose far more leg than he'd done a moment earlier, before disappearing without a trace.
"We really don't get paid enough, do we?" Hermione asked, examining the thick, wooden door, thoughtfully. They were waiting for the spell to wear off in three...two...
"GRANGER! LUPIN! LET ME OUT OF HERE RIGHT THIS INSTANT." There was steady pounding on the door.
Remus shook his head. "No, we really don't." He leaned up against the door and called, "We'll let you out once you calm down, Severus!"
"I hate you!"
Turning to Hermione, Remus wagged an accusatory finger in her direction. "This is all your fault."
Hermione moaned, "I know. I never do things like this, but Snape's been such a jerk my whole life and I just wanted to do something funny and do you think Malfoy's going to send him to St. Mungo's for real?" She was growing rather hysterical, frantically waving her hands in front of her chest.
"Maybe I should put you in that room with Severus until you both calm down."
Hermione's eyes grew wide. "You wouldn't."
Remus grinned. "You're right; I wouldn't. I'm sure Draco will get over it as soon as he's less stressed. And it was a very, very funny joke. The sight of Severus beaming beatifically down on us all is enough to get me through many-a stressful night."
"You really thought it was funny?" Hermione stopped shaking her hands quite so vigorously.
"Very." Purposefully raising his voice, Remus said loudly, "And Severus looks damned good in those fishnets!"
"Of course I do!" came the haughty reply.
Draco, still kind of frantic, dragged Luna up to the front door of Malfoy Manor. He stopped abruptly, glancing back and forth between the door and Luna. "Want to get married?"
Luna, who'd definitely ruled out dreaming because she'd pinched herself and it'd hurt, decided she must be going mad. "Married?"
"Yes. Now. Right now." Draco's eyes were pleading and really quite lovely, even if he was completely insane.
Her thoughts briefly flew to Antonio, but he'd abandoned her, so there was no chance she was hurting him, right? Besides, if she was insane and Draco was, too, then there'd be no problem with this. She shrugged. "Sure."
"Great! I know a cleric who does these ceremonies quickly. He dresses like that Muggle singer who wails about hound dogs--"
"Yes, I don't know, either, but he does these things discretely and fast. You are a pureblood, right?"
Luna nodded, dazed.
"Great!" Draco shouted again. "We're getting married!" Grabbing Luna by her wrist again, they were gone as quickly as they came, Luna feeling dizzy and just a little bit giddy. Daddy would be so pleased!
Harry's jaw was set, determined. "Viola, let's take a little trip."
Worried, Neville glanced at Harry's face. Whatever mood he was in, it seemed a little scary. "Mr Potter--"
"Call me Harry."
Neville's heart soared. "Harry," he said tentatively, the name rolling easily off his tongue, "where exactly are we going?"
"Erm, what about the threat of restraining order?"
"Don't care. You, me, and Draco, we need to hash a few things out."
Neville gulped. "Ah. Ready to go, then." Though not much of a drinker, Neville thought he could use a stiff one right about now. He and Harry both Apparated away, landing right outside of Draco's house. Harry knocked and, surprisingly, Draco himself answered.
Confused, Draco looked from Neville to Harry, before pulling Neville inside. "Why on Earth would you be outside? I just saw you a moment ago with the minister!"
Pop. A dark-haired man appeared on Draco's grounds. "You!" he said angrily, pointing at Neville. "You call me a friend? You are as bad as those awful men we captured! Give me my money, at least, so I can escape this god-forsaken country. At least your wards are so terrible that my escape was easy!"
Harry stepped protectively in front of Neville. "Viola, do you know this man?"
"I saw him on the street earlier, but I swear I have no idea who he is." Neville hated this mission, truly.
The dark-haired man threw himself onto the grass. "Oh, Luna, don't you know your Antonio?"
Neville gasped. "You did call me Luna before! I thought--"
"Draco?" said an even voice from somewhere inside. "The minister is ready to begin." A blonde woman came onto the porch, a man in a white, rhinestone-encrusted jumpsuit following closely behind. When she finally made herself known, Harry's, Draco's, Antonio's, and even the minister's jaws all dropped.
"Neville!" Luna cried, throwing herself into her doppelganger's arms. "You're alive! What are you doing in that ridiculous get-up?"
"Luna," Neville said softly, embracing his partner tightly, "typically one doesn't reveal it when one's partner is in disguise. I'm on a mission."
"You're alive," she said, ignoring his protests.
"So are you." Neville's voice hitched a little bit.
"Besides, they know you -- why did you think they wouldn't know it was you?"
But both Harry and Draco were still staring at them, jaws scraping the floor. "Luna?" Harry asked, confused, just as Draco shouted, "Longbottom?!"
Neville chuckled nervously. "Uh, maybe we should all go inside, eh?"
Once inside, Hermione popped her head in, asking if it'd be all right if they let Snape out now. Draco, still in a daze, nodded and waved her away.
"So...you've been assigned to protect me?" Harry soaked things in gradually.
"Yes. Just call me your bodyguard."
"And you thought Luna was dead?"
"And Luna thought you were dead?"
"But you don't love Draco."
"I only have feelings for one person in this room," Neville confessed shyly. "Besides, Draco's straight."
"He is?" Luna said, astonished.
Neville laughed at her. "You're the one marrying the bloke! Wouldn't you think he was straight?"
"Well," she said, thoughtfully, crossing the room to stand with Antonio, "I'm quite sure Draco likes girls." She tugged Antonio along until he stood beside Draco. "I'm just not too positive that he likes only them. They make a nice pair, don't they?" Luna stepped back, admiring them both, then turned to Minister Suedeshoe. "Have you ever performed a ceremony for more than one person?"
The Minister looked thoughtful. "Love me tender, love me true," he answered, swivelling his hips. "Let's go for it, sugar."
"Well, that answers that. Antonio, Draco, are you quite all right with this?"
"I want you, Luna," Antonio said confidently.
"Once I get used to calling you Luna, I'll be all right with it, too." Draco looked Antonio's form up and down. "Antonio, was it? Yes, I think this might do nicely," he said, licking his lips.
Hermione and Remus returned then, with Snape back in his normal garb, sniffing distastefully at his surroundings. "A quickie wedding, Draco? How gauche."
"Shut up, Severus," Remus said fondly.
"Uh, are we interrupting?" Ron asked tentatively as he and Ginny stood in the doorway, both taken aback by the sheer amount of people crowding the room. "The House Elf let us in."
Draco threw up his hands. "Why don't we all move in here and make a commune?"
Ron rushed to Hermione's side. "What's going on?"
"Best I can tell? Luna Lovegood is here because Malfoy thought she was Viola, who's really Neville."
"Neville?" Ginny gasped.
"Yes, keep up," Hermione said impatiently. "Anyway, he was undercover, but Luna blew it, everyone's in love and I think Malfoy's about to get married."
"And I'm not about to stay and watch this debacle," Snape announced.
"Want to get a drink?" Remus asked.
Snape considered this for a moment. "Are you paying?"
"Depends. Are you planning on wearing those awful yellow robes again?"
"Never again," Snape shuddered. "The once was more than enough."
"Fine, then. I'm paying."
Snape muttered something about 'having gone completely insane', but started to leave with Remus anyway.
"Oh, and Severus?"
"What is it, Lupin?" Snape sighed, put upon.
Remus lightly slapped Snape's arse. "Yellow may not be your colour, but you can wear those stockings anytime you'd like."
"Gryffindors. Think they can do anything they want." Then, both men were gone.
"That was weird," Ron said.
Harry, from his place on the couch, nodded vigorously.
"That drink sounds pretty good, though. Her-Hermione?"
"Want to get a drink with me?"
"Of course, I do. But," she said with a warning note to her voice, "if your hand comes anywhere near my arse, I will hex you into next week."
"Fine," Ron grinned. "Same rules don't apply to you." He offered her his elbow and off they went.
"Finally!" cried Ginny, watching them leave. "Never thought they'd get their act together. Draco, it's been fun, but I'm over you. Time to find a nice wizard who's a little less confused about his sexuality. Ciao." Then she was gone.
Neville stood. "Yes, well, no real need for us here, is there? Draco, you'd better treat Luna well or I will personally hex your balls off. Luna, I'll see you tomorrow." He turned to Harry. "I can come back to your flat with you or go back to mine, alone. The choice is yours."
Harry looked thoughtful. "My place."
Neville had to bite his cheek to keep from grinning. "Fine. Shall we?" Harry rose and a minute later, they found themselves standing in Harry's hallway.
Once inside, Neville turned and said, "Harry--" just as Harry started, "Neville--" Both laughed.
"Are you going to stay like that?" Harry indicated Neville's disguise.
Neville smiled. "What, you don't like the new me?"
Harry shook his head. "How did I not see it? Now, I'm looking at you and all I can see is Neville everywhere. You're still you -- just...daintier."
"That's why the glamour's so long-lasting," Neville explained. "But I'd feel much more comfortable as me." Pulling his wand from his robes, he pointed the wand at himself. "Finite Incantem." Said several times, this righted his hair, his chin and lips, his hips, and, thankfully, his breasts. Unfortunately, this still left him in heels and women's robes, but they could deal with that later.
Harry was staring at Neville as though he'd never seen him before, which Neville supposed was somewhat accurate.
"You're my bodyguard."
"And hopefully more than that, Harry," Neville said. "But if you don't want me, I'll understand. I mean, I'm used to it...I've loved you for over five years now and--"
"More than. Possibly a lot more than."
"And you never told me?"
"Why would I have done that?"
"Because we could have had this much earlier." Harry stepped towards him, cupping Neville's face in his hands. Then, Harry's lips were on his, gently sucking and nipping. As if by instinct, Neville's arms circled Harry's waist and, in his kiss-induced daze, he noted that they were nearly the same height, their hips meeting together in perfect alignment. Moaning into Harry's mouth, he sought to bring them closer together.
The kiss ended naturally and Neville began exploring Harry's jaw, his neck, his collarbone, loving the little whimpers and noises he caused Harry to make. "You've ruined my lipstick," Neville murmured into a particularly sensitive patch of skin, just under Harry's ear.
"You can put on more later," Harry replied, his voice thick. Neville laughed and pulled away so he could look at Harry's face.
"So, what happens now?"
"What do you want to happen now?"
"We live happily ever after?" Neville suggested.
"Maybe. I'm still a prat."
"But you're my prat."
"Yeah," said Harry fondly.
"Yeah." Neville stroked Harry's cheek and moved in to kiss him again.