“Percy, could you do me an enormous favour?” Hermione Granger – soon to be Hermione Weasley in a couple of days – asked, passing by with an armful of hand-sewn chair covers for the reception. “I was supposed to stop by the greenhouse after lunch, but your mum and I are this close to getting these done and I’d rather not leave until they’re finished and out of the way. Would you be kind enough to stop by and let Neville know I won’t be in to see him until later this afternoon?”
Recognising the frazzled expression on her face well enough after seeing some of his friends from school married off, Percy rested a hand on her shoulder, giving it a comforting squeeze. “I’d be more than happy to let him know.”
Giving him a grateful smile, Hermione continued on her way, bronze-coloured fabric trailing behind her. Percy kept his reassuring smile in place until she was out of sight before letting it falter. Of all the things Hermione could have asked of him, paying a call on Neville Longbottom, even for business reasons, it had to be that one.
It wasn’t that he didn’t like Neville. He did. The younger man was patient, kind, and hard-working; he shared Percy’s habits of neatness and organisation, and he didn’t lack his own share of ambition, having started his own business from his Gran’s back garden with an eye toward opening his own shop in the very near future.
Things had been strained between them, however, ever since Ron’s engagement party. Percy had made no secret of the fact he wasn’t the marrying kind, something everyone but Mum had taken well, and that was more because of the lost opportunity for more grandchildren than anything else. She’d had enough time since then to firmly pin her hopes on her remaining children, a turn of events that made him the source of some good-natured teasing from Charlie, George, and Ginny whenever they were asked yet again if they’d be bringing anyone home for dinner anytime soon.
That night, the night of Ron’s engagement party, Neville had approached him and admitted that he also wasn’t the marrying sort. Bolstered by copious amounts of liquid courage, he’d also confessed that he’d fancied Percy for quite some time. Ordinarily, Percy would have been pleased, even flattered by the admiration…except that Neville had tried to prove his affections with an attempted, impromptu blowjob in the back garden.
Percy had kindly yet firmly pushed Neville away, not wanting him to have any regrets the next morning after the hangover, but Neville had avoided him since. Sometimes, Percy wondered if he should have accepted, and if Neville had thought the rebuffed offer of sexual favours a rejection of him as a person. He hadn’t seen him since the engagement party, to either explain or apologise.
It appeared Hermione had just given him that opportunity, whether he was ready for it or not. Oh well, no time like the present. Breathing out a soft sigh, he straightened his shoulders and walked out of the Burrow to Apparate to the greenhouse.
It was raining at the country estate outside of Manchester, a soft, warm summer rain that pattered gently on the stone walk leading to the greenhouse door. Percy didn’t see Neville inside among the plants nestled within the glass walls as he opened the door and entered the humid environs, but figured he was probably in another part of the building. If not there, he could probably be found in the nearby shed where he kept the tools and a variety of mulches and fertilisers. Failing that, he would try the house, in case Neville was eating a late lunch.
Walking the length of the greenhouse proved he was the only one inside. Steeling himself against heading out into the wet once again, he glanced out a glass pane and stopped, astonished.
Neville stood outside, his eyes closed, face tilted upward toward the falling rain. His brown hair lay plastered against his forehead, water sliding down his cheeks, dripping from his chin and the tips of his fingers. His clothes were soaked clear through. Yet, he stood smiling, completely relaxed and unmindful of his sodden hair and clothing. It was, Percy thought, the image of someone at peace with himself and the world in general.
That thought was quickly followed by a second. Perhaps Neville hadn’t been avoiding him. Perhaps it was his way of rationalising the fact that he’d been the one doing the avoiding. It hadn’t been as though Neville was difficult to find, or unapproachable.
Resigning himself to rain-spotted robes, Percy headed back outdoors, keeping his head down to keep the lenses of his horn-rimmed glasses dry until he stood next to Neville. The other man cracked open one eye long enough to recognise his visitor before letting it slide shut again, but didn’t speak. Reaching up, Percy removed his glasses, folding them neatly before slipping them into a robe pocket. Neville still hadn’t moved, and Percy closed his eyes also, tipping his face toward the summer rain.
“Any particular reason why you’re standing outside soaked to the skin for the hell of it?” he asked conversationally.
“No reason,” Neville replied after a moment. “I just felt like it. It’s peaceful.”
Percy wasn’t sure how courting a cold could be construed as peaceful, but didn’t say anything. Neville looked too content; and really, it wasn’t Percy’s place to chide an apparent act of whimsy.
“Hermione sent me to tell you…” he began.
“Sshhh,” Neville interrupted, his voice serene. “Listen.”
Right, then. Percy considered leaving Neville to his rain, but another impulse led him to obey the quiet directive and fall silent, eyes still closed against the raindrops wetting his face and hair. He pictured grass clippings clinging to his shoes, Hermione wondering what was taking him so long to run a simple errand, the document he’d left on his desk at work for Monday.
Eventually his mind stilled enough to take in the sound of rain. It varied depending on the surface, he noted with mild surprise. It made a kind of rustling sound against the grass, thudded against the fabric of his robes. It tapped against the glass walls of the greenhouse and pattered on the stones. Underneath, he thought he could almost hear the earth drinking in the rain, pulling it down to water the roots it cradled. He could almost hear the whispers of the flowers as they nodded to the percussive rhythms of falling drops.
“It…it almost sounds like music,” he said softly, opening his eyes long enough to glance to where Neville stood, solid and serene and grounded. It was a good place to be, he thought. “Like the flowers are singing.”
Neville didn’t reply, nor did his eyes open, but his smile made words unnecessary. His hand moved, finding Percy’s, fingers threading through Percy’s in a loose, companionable grip. The touch was warm, accepting, completely lacking in censure or regret.
Echoing his smile, Percy turned his face back toward the falling rain, his hand firmly grasped within Neville’s, and listened to the flowers sing in the rain while something even more ephemeral bloomed inside him. It might have been acceptance. It might have been love. It might have been the rain. Whatever it was, Percy didn’t mind at all.
Hermione was going to have to wait a little while longer.