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Early July

His Gran raised an eyebrow at him when he told her where he wanted to go, but she didn’t comment. She never questioned anything he did anymore. It was freaking him out a bit, even though it was great not to be criticised by her sharp voice at any one moment. She was proud of him, had even told him she was, had told him that “If your father had been in any state to see you, young man, he would have had a happy kneazle.”

So it was not as if he expected her to forbid him to accept Draco’s invitation to the Manor. But disapproval, that he had expected, and not thinly veiled, either. Maybe it was because she was still raw from the satisfaction of standing over Bellatrix Lestrange’s mangled corpse, from taking a good long look at what Molly Weasley had done to the woman who’d destroyed their family. Maybe it was because when someone had approached Narcissa and not very kindly informed her of her sister’s death, the blonde woman had hardly reacted at all, had only clutched her listless-looking husband and her slightly singed but otherwise unscathed son tighter.

And maybe, maybe it was because she really understood Neville had been making tough decisions all year, that he was brave but only rash when circumstances demanded it, that he was quite comfortable in situations where he could predict the consequences. That he knew what the consequences would be, what he would shape the consequences to be if he did this. That he had to have his reasons for wanting to shape his own personal post-War consequences like this.

When Narcissa Malfoy answered the door to his persistent knocks and discovered him on her porch, she almost slammed the door in his face. She caught herself, possibly thinking it not very wise to anger a barely legal war hero and Harry Potter’s friend. She still could not manage a smile to invite him in, but Neville didn’t begrudge her the fact that she’d had quite enough of people invading her home.

The stiffness in her face relaxed somewhat when she saw the stunned but joyful surprise on Draco’s face. Neville could tell he hadn’t smiled a lot, since, probably hadn’t sported a real smile for months, but now one was threatening to break through, just barely lifting his lips up around the edges.

Lucius Malfoy’s eyes drifted nervously from what he had to see as a Gryffindor intruder and the upper floor. It was not inconspicuous at all, and Neville thought it was a shame and a relief that a year-long continuous breakdown had reduced the man who once cornered Neville and his friends at the Ministry to this. There was a secret here, but Neville was not worried. If it was the secret Draco’s letters alluded to - find myself reluctant to leave the house and thank you for getting rid of the snake thank you thank you - it would not be a problem at all, it would be fine, it would be a miracle. Maybe he’d have another skittish war-surviving Slytherin at his hands pretty soon. There were not many of them who knew what all had been at stake that last year at school.

Draco might be wary of the world's attitude toward Slytherins, but Neville wasn’t scared of much of anything, anymore. Neville had battled against unjust punishments for an entire year. He could fight against one more.