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Chancy is the Night

Chapter Text

*    *    *

Part I

Neville opened his eyes, then, at the sight before him, snapped them shut. He didn’t need to inhale deeply of the air around him, already knowing it would smell slightly stale, slightly off. Irresistible, nonetheless. Just like the lithe form he’d caught a glimpse of, as he’d frantically shut his eyes just a moment ago – trim, ever-so-slightly muscled, interestingly proportioned. Maybe a little – just a little shorter than Neville might be, if he was on his feet.

“You know, I was expecting a little more…bravery, Longbottom.” Neville didn’t restrain his shiver – no point in keeping the tension in. There was more than enough sodding tension to go round, what with the supple, tight bonds holding him down, holding his legs stiff to the legs of the eminently uncomfortable chair as his head lolled back, just a little, his posture feeling like some grotesque parody of relaxation. “And yet, you refuse to open your eyes…” A hand worthy of that voice cupped his cheek, almost a little gently, enough to niggle at Neville. He’d been captured what, four, five times? They were never gentle, especially not at first – “Such cowardice in such an experienced killer – it baffles me.” Neville went still then, stiller than stiller than still, because his seething brain had suddenly recognised that almost accentless accent – English. English-Scottish.

Neville’s eyes dilated behind their lids, as if unaware of the fact that the vampire, whose smooth, cold hand was still stroking his cheek, could not see the reaction. And a reaction it was, despite the fact that Neville had come much farther and seen more than enough to dull his tendency to quiver in fear, because that accent meant that they, the – the vampire, might actually know him, and the comment about experience really only increased the chances of that –

“Although I suppose your bravery is limited to war,” the voice continued, sounding more and more English-Scottish by the minute, making Neville’s ears feel like they were slowly recovering from some sort of – he sighed to himself – charm. Idiot. “Isn’t it? You feel the heat of spellfire around you, Longbottom, feel the press of a heated wand to your skin, and you think, now – now, I show them. Right?”

Neville nodded. It was his policy to agree with vampires when they had you strapped thirteen ways to Thursday in an uncomfortable chair in nothing but your pyjama bottoms and socks, with your wand nowhere in sight, and with the odd, musky tingle of magic-dampening wards seeming to finally shiver into the forefront of your consciousness as the (probably) De-Sensing charm’s efficacy waned. It was a good policy. It ensured that he usually lived through these sorts of situations while his braver, prouder contemporaries did not.

“Right.” That smooth voice dropped, now, to a murmur. “You are a fool, Longbottom. The entire Department of Aurors are all fools. Spellfire is nothing –” that stroking hand, the one Neville had almost forgotten, suddenly slipped down and gripped his neck, and Neville felt his eyes bulge – “ – nothing to what nature and magic have given me.” Neville gurgled, trying to agree around the tightening press of those cold, steely fingers, and predictably failed. The attempt seemed to satisfy the vampire, as he let go, chuckling softly. “See what marks I leave on your soft, babyish skin? Just from a casual little squeeze?”

Neville agreed, nodding his head dully, the dull pain in his windpipe shivering together with the tracks of cool fire around his neck, all into a mass of p-p-pain pain pain –

“You won’t forget this, I trust,” the vampire said, smugly, now back to stroking his cheek again as he fought not to hold back the whimpers, but couldn’t really, because letting sound out would hurt, oh Merlin Fuck it did – “You’re not stupid, Neville. I think you’ve learned that, after all these years.” Neville’s eyes bulged again, making him open them to see, because oh god he didn’t personally know vampires, and if they knew his real name it could mean – “Oh, do close your eyes. This will be much better that way.”

Neville forgot to obey as cold, almost unfamiliar, half-lidded blue eyes drifted over his face and loomed closer and closer as no, no, that was not, oh god, he wasn’t god fuck no kissing? It was? Kissing him?

Cool lips. Practiced tongue. Teeth that pierced his tongue, just a little, as Neville felt his stupid-as-fuck mouth opening and letting in the wonderfully skilled tongue of a vampire, I’m kissing a bleeding vampire, I’m SO FUCKED

Indeed, by the time the strange kiss ended, Neville was fucked. Just in another sense. One of those cool, threatening hands was stroking his bare nipple as another one trailed down his chest, and Neville’s eyes had long been closed, and were now staying closed as the vampire nuzzled his neck. He was almost too far gone to groan as a soft, cool tongue licked at a spot near his ear that felt increasingly numb, and the other hand began to squeeze the traitorous swell of his cock. The vampire laughed softly when he moaned, and for some dizzying minutes, all Neville knew was that hand, and those teeth that were sort of piercing his earlobe in the most sensitive –

And then Neville was groaning, around the hurt that lingered in his throat, because this rarely felt good, especially after the war, when there was no adrenaline to push him into doing and suggesting and looking where he really shouldn’t, and but oh that was – fuck.

Neville opened his eyes, slowly, what felt like hours later, to silence. An empty room bereft of that odd smell of different magic, different life, was all around him, and his bonds were – he tested them – still fucking there.

Neville scowled tiredly, then, as he began to shift in the chair, planning his escape, scowled even harder. The bloody bastard had wanked him off and maybe even bitten him (well, maybe not – if he was a vampire now, he’d have had to feel something while it was happening. And anyway, he would’ve snapped the sodding bonds in that case, just by trying) but hadn’t seen fit to clean up the sopping mess he’d made of Neville’s pyjamas. Scowling, Neville put himself to work wriggling carefully out of the ropes. Strange that it irked him more that the idiot vampire (goodness knew why it’d left him in the first place) had made him blast out enough come to coat himself in a thoroughly teenager-ish fashion and leave without even trying to clean up the fruit of his seduction.

*   *   *

After a copious amount of wriggling and panting in desperation, Neville finally found his legs free. It took a great deal more determination to stretch them out – oh, the pain – and try to heave to his feet, still strapped in the chair. Somehow, eyes watering, he did it, the pain seeming to throb in from all directions, making him stagger as he began to get his bearings. Now, if he could just position the chair properly, so his running backwards into a bare stony wall would actually make some kind of difference, he could –

Crack!

Just like that, the horrible, musty trap of the magic-dampening ward released with a pop, making Neville’s hair stand on end for a full minute as he panted, almost sobbed, treasuring the tingling feeling of rightness that overcame him as his magic surged to the fore. A long moment passed, seeing him struggle to right himself emotionally and physically, preparing, so to speak, for the coming escape. What did it matter, anyway, if it felt like he was being let go? Only fools didn’t take advantages because they didn’t trust them –

Neville took in a breath, taking careful not of what was him and what was the still-supple, still-strong bonds of the chair and the chair itself, weighing heavy on him and putting red grooves into his skin as he recited the three D’s, to calm himself before –

There – there! Oh, Merlin, he’d done it –

Steps began to sound outside the hidden door of the Ministry safe room even before Neville crashed to the ground, utterly drained, and he’d never been as grateful to see Ron Weasley’s red hair in his life.

Grateful beyond words to feel the usual arguments and panicked questions starting up around him, Neville allowed himself to slip into a blissful slumber. He’d earned it, being tossed off by a fucking vampire.

*   *   *

“So, let me get this straight,” Harry said tiredly, glaring over at Ron to shut his tirade up. “It – the vampire swindled you into entering his home –”

“Hardly his home,” Neville muttered, rubbing at his aching neck, “it was as empty my arse feels right this minute, I tell you.”

“Swindled you,” Harry continued, giving Ron a quelling look as he muttered something about delusional bastards, “then knocked you out with a –”

“I don’t know,” Neville admitted, not feeling the least bit embarrassed, “but I think it was some kind of mix of a masking charm and a De-Sensing charm, if none of the standard spells could find me –”

“They found a lump on the back of your head, Neville,” Ron hissed looking furious. “What kind of vampire slayer –”

“Vampire adjudicator,” Neville interrupted blandly.

“I don’t care!” Ron roared. “All signs indicate that he hit you on the head, for fuck’s sake!”

“Think my job is easy?” Neville asked, quietly. “They’ve never been happy, you know – inevitable that there’s some unrest –”

Happy? Since when do I give a flying –”

“Ron! Ron! Sit down.” Ron sat, Harry having used his Obey The DOM Head tone. “So, Neville, you’re de-magicked and de-sensed and tied up in a cosy chair. What next?”

“I really have no clue, actually,” Neville mused, giving Ron a hard look when he snorted. “Oh, don’t look at me like that – not like your lot understand half anything vampires do in the first place –”

“Neville,” Harry said, in the OTDH tone. Neville obeyed.

“He was very odd,” he began, a little unhelpfully. “Did the taunting bit all right, except for the fact where he knew I was a killer (they don’t usually know, I try to be just a random wizard, see), and knew I’d fought in some kind of battle. He went on about spellfire being no match for magic and nature for a bit, and that’s where he started strangling –”

“What?” Harry asked, looking confused.

“I know,” Neville replied, injecting some of his own weary confusion into the mix. “It felt like he was trying to prove some kind of point, but it just got past me, somehow.” Harry nodded, his eyes fixed on thin air, obviously off in that little land Heads of the DOM probably had to visit regularly to come up with the strangely correct theories they often used. Neville kept quiet, only scratching at the boundlessly irritating lump on the back of his head.

Ron didn’t.

“So, Neville,” he said instead, with that low, almost friendly tone that Neville had long figured out to be his strategic one, “how’d you get out, anyway?” Neville stiffened, remembering a very, very, very different stiffening that had happened before that, and couldn’t help thinking of the almost lackadaisical way he’d been handled (oh god, handled, yes) by a member of a group who were always rather against that sort of fraternization, if there was to be no biting coming of it. If there was anything he’d learnt to truly expect of a vampire, it was intensity. Now, how it showed itself wasn’t always the same – “Neville! I asked you a question, for Christ’s sake!”

“Harry’s trying to think, Ron,” Neville said kindly, in that way that he knew always rankled with Ron. Harry, shaking himself, suddenly looked at him and – shit, he could feel the trouble –

“Actually, I’d quite like to know too, Neville.” – speeding merrily along. Almost like the fast, swift glide of that cool, cool hand on heated cloth –

“I,” Neville said, wearily, “I am not – I am very, very inclined to think he let me go, Harry.”

“That’s ‘sir’ to you, Neville,” Ron said viciously, but the look on Harry’s face had gone from focused to frighteningly intent, and after a moment of the look being turned on him, he subsided into red-faced silence.

“Did he bite you, Neville?” Harry asked suddenly, eyes narrowing. Neville started to shake his head (it had been the first thing the Aurors had tested, of course), then, remembering that heavenly little nip right at the end, just as he’d thought his balls would physically burst from pleasure –

“I – I think so. Not a proper bite, just a…” Neville tried to gesture something meaningful that didn’t somehow involve the way his cock had felt, coming at last, or the way he had felt the teeth on his tongue during the kiss. He must have pulled it off, because Harry was nodding, sitting back in his chair, eyes gleaming with intent. “Sorry, Harry, but is that all? I’m due for some more work on my windpipe in ten or twenty minutes, so…”

“Just one more question,” Harry said, getting to his feet as Neville did, his hand extended for the usual easy handshake they always shared at the end of any visit. “How long did he hold his grip on your neck?”

Neville shuddered, ignoring the scornful look Ron sent him. “A minute, Harry. Just a fucking minute. And I swear, by Merlin it was scary. It just –” he paused, looking uncertainly in Harry’s direction, but the other man’s eyes were encouraging, as was the somewhat appraising look on his face, “ – it felt like steel. Cool, flesh-covered steel, strangling me to death without a thought.” Neville shuddered again. “It’s just – none of them’s ever gotten close enough to try that on me. Maybe that’s why I’m so…” Ron’s eyes glinted at him as he opened the door, but Harry had just sent him enough of a warning look that he kept whatever familiar slur he’d been about to make. “Nice talking to you, Harry, as always.”

“I think I can truly say it was my pleasure, Neville,” Harry said, smiling a little, but not much like the boy Neville knew was still somewhere deep in there, behind the polished glasses and the long hair and imposing, manly features. “If you’re contacted again –”

“What?” Neville stopped short. “You’re joking – the bastard practically let me –”

“Yes,” Harry said, quietly. “Let you go. Something’s going on here, Neville. Just – if he contacts you again, try to give me a warning.” He paused as they all exited the smallish, cool little office. “You know how.”

Neville nodded, despite the feeling that Harry was somehow not thinking of all of this properly. Despite the odd quiver in his stomach at the thought of those blue eyes and pale lips returning.

Rolling his eyes at himself, Neville made his way through the familiar corridors of the underground warren that was the Department of Mysteries’ Office Structure, easily finding the heavily restricted Floo station and purchasing a bit of powder to heave himself along to St. Mungo’s. Surely, he (or Harry. Or, on second thoughts, just Harry) was being paranoid, and defeatist. He’d be fine – he’d snag another case in a week or so after getting his throat seen to, and he’d be fine again, no vampires lurking around the corner to debauch him so thoroughly and secretly, you know, and all that.

*   *   *

Of course, as these things always turned out to be, Neville was wrong. But, thankfully Harry, all-powerful Head of the Department of Mysteries, ended up being wrong as well. In a rather unpleasant manner.

See, Harry, Neville thought furiously, behind his gag, there was a small problem with contacting your stupid arse. Just a small, tiny one, really

“I do hope you passed along my message, Neville,” the vampire said, flexing his fingers, claws extending cruelly as he stood over Neville’s shaking form on the shabby settee, looking quite gleeful. Neville tried not to think about what that glee was for (or whether it involved him being vampire-d or being drunk dry), but it was hard not to as the vampire, flipping dark, nondescript hair over one shoulder with an expression that looked very alarmingly like it was satisfied, began to tear open his pyjama top.  God, was it – he going to cut him open, first? Oh, please make it quick

“Be an awful shame,” the vampire continued, voice going soft and low, dangerously low, “to go through all that trouble to see my message floating about only in your stupid head, Longbottom.” A large-scale mirroring charm suddenly flickered into life, setting off stupid lights of recognition in Neville’s panicked head as the images on the mirror opposite them swirled into life. For a fleeting moment, Neville entertained wild, incoherent thoughts about the inventor of that charm coming to rescue him somehow, but that moment was very quickly cut short as he realised, with no small sense of horror, that the mirror was showing very clear footage from the hotly contested convene of the Wizengamot scheduled to take place that afternoon.

“Mmmhpm!” Neville, forgetting himself for a moment, glared at the vampire as best as he could. Thankfully, he only got a slow, chilling smile in return.

“Oh, yes. I’d better start praying that whoever you passed my message onto has some sort of authority in that stuffy little room, not to mention good sense,” he drawled down at Neville, his hand moving up to caress Neville’s still-healing neck as he moved to the side. “If not, things might get a bit…ugly.”

Neville tried to stifle a whimper of fear as the monitoring charm zoomed in slightly (pre-programmed, he could hear the inventor whispering silkily into his ear, as if only yesterday he’d been in that bed, in that room), centring somewhat on the brightest figure at the long, shimmering table.

Hermione Granger, newest member of the Wizengamot. Neville wanted to close his eyes, but found them betraying him, cataloguing her every fluid move and only slightly girlish smile as she conversed politely with the stiff blonde next to her. He’d seen enough death, and yet he could only –

The miniature Hermione suddenly stilled, then stormed to her feet, wand out, suddenly every inch the terror she’d been on the battlefield at the worst moments. The man beside her did the same thing, as did the heavily jewelled woman on her right, but with less aplomb, less speed. Hermione was incanting something now, wildly, face a study of fear, and Neville’s heart felt like it was being sat on as he watched the sudden accumulation of formless mist that he recognised immediately for –

A dark cape suddenly swirled into view, the mist disappearing, and though the form of the vampire obscured Neville’s view of his friend, he could still see the three Wizengamot members shrinking back, could still see that expansive gesture that presaged Hermione standing up for someone less than able to do so for themselves. Neville moaned around the gag, furious with himself, furious for not thinking, not remembering what was fucking well going on in wizarding politics, not realising –

The vampire struck, and, for a moment, Neville almost won the battle to look away. But suddenly the bastard was rebounding, writhing, and the table between him and Hermione and the others was glowing a malevolent yellow, and suddenly they were ducking, and blurred brown things were whistling across their heads and into the mist swirling about them, and Neville could see spells hurtling across the hall now, because the charm was expanding –

The mirror suddenly went dull, suddenly allowing Neville to feel the pressure around his neck. “That was satisfactory, but foolish in the amount of lives it endangered, Longbottom,” the vampire said coldly. Neville, still shaking from the nearness of what he’d just seen, decided this was one time he could allow himself not to assent. The gag was pulled off then, roughly, with the obvious intent to question him. “Who did you tell?”

Neville drew in a shaky breath, saying nothing. This idiot obviously didn’t know him – how else would he try to pry information from Neville just after he’d shown Neville the almost-death of one of his close friends in a way that indicated that he was probably part of the fucking planning that had gone into the attack?

The vampire sighed. “This is not a good time to be uncooperative, you know.” Neville’s lips pinched together as he fought the urge to call on his magic, call on his wand, call on something – he knew it wouldn’t work, with the smothering closeness of the magic-suppressing wards tingling all over, but it didn’t abate the need to try.

The vampire moved into view again, blocking Neville’s view of the mirror as he sank gracefully to a half-crouch in front of Neville, giving him a brief view of pale, slightly drawn skin and calculating blue eyes before Neville turned his head away. That didn’t stop the vampire from reaching out to stroke his faintly throbbing neck almost admiringly, the feel of those cool, horribly familiar fingers a direct intimation of more suffocation to come.

But suddenly the vampire was looming closer instead, and Neville realised with no small measure of panic that it was his face he was moving closer, but before he could flinch away or – or hit him in the face with his shoulder, defend himself, do anything, that pale, nondescript mouth had attached itself to Neville’s throbbing neck and he could feel fangs on his skin.

Neville gulped as the vampire’s arms crept around him, feeling the wet, odd warmness of a tongue as it licked his neck, numbing, soothing the spot as the mouth began to tighten, as the fangs began to press harder –

“Harry Potter,” Neville heard himself whisper. “Please. Please.”

The vampire chuckled against his neck, and bit.

*    *    *

Hours later, Neville began to slip back into consciousness, a persistent ache throbbing unpleasantly in his neck where the vampire had bitten painfully into it. His breathing was laboured, and he felt oddly weak and fragile and tired and afraid for a – for a vampire –

With determination, Neville managed to position his head at the correct angle to try to see what the skin on his left hand looked like. From here, it looked more familiar than not – pale, quite dirty, a little freckled from sunning in Madeira on his trip two or three weeks ago. Weeks, now, that felt like years.

Do vampires have freckles? Neville asked himself, as tears began to collect in his eyes, as his head began to swim again. Suddenly, things were growing darker and darker, and he could feel the pain in his neck lessening greatly. Perhaps this was it.

Perhaps this was the change, and these were the last truly human moments he would have –

But no, his head was still swimming, and his neck was still throbbing obstinately, and his eyesight was just blurring that way because of his tears. Maybe. Maybe not.

Either way, he had to get out, and that wouldn’t happen with him sitting here like a lump. Slowly, painstakingly, Neville worked his way out of the ropes, which were either not as tight as before, or numbed his limbs enough that they didn’t feel as tight. The pain of renewed blood circulation hit him as he finally wriggled his arms out of their bonds, making him slump back into the settee momentarily, but that was fine compared to the pain in his legs when he finally got them free.

Standing up was the biggest shock, as it forced himself to take notice of his appearance in the mirror. For a long moment, Neville gaped at the shadows under his eyes, at the dried blood that seemed to be smeared all over his neck and shoulders and splattered down his front, at the blood-soaked wound on his neck that was probably the cause of it all. Restraining his impulse to be sick, Neville forced himself to try to clean off the wound, so he could at least see if it was infected, but his shirt was too grimy and his hands even worse, so he left off that activity and forced himself to take stock of his surroundings.

Not much to go on, as usual. Empty except for the large, plain mirror and the bloodied settee, the room was unremarkable and useless in every sense of the word. The fact that Neville could still feel the magic-inhibiting wards tingling obscenely on every inch of his skin was the most disheartening, however. Trying the nondescript sole door  to the room achieved nothing, as well, and it was with a faint heart and an increasing sense of panic that Neville finally retired to the settee and set himself the task of being awake until some part of his circumstances changed for the better.

*    *    *

Some time later, Neville rushed back into consciousness, called by the cool fingers drifting over his body. Eyes wide, he realised that the room was dark, that his body was laid down on the settee in a rather more relaxed position than he remembered slipping into sleep from, and that –

“Awake?”

The vampire was on top of him, and, as usual, didn’t seem to weigh half as much as the brute strength in his fingers had implied. It felt disturbingly good, and comforting in a way Neville remembered from his weird stints as part of a relationship.

Cool fingers were stroking his neck, which was still faintly throbbing. “I’m sure you’re thinking I shouldn’t have been quite so enthusiastic, but, seeing as measuring these things is rather touch and go while they’re actually happening…” the vampire bent its head to the wound again, eliciting a helpless shudder from Neville, “…well, I hardly think you can blame me, all things considered.” That maddening tongue began to lick away at the painful area, producing rather embarrassingly fearful whimpers from Neville. The vampire chuckled again. “You really have no idea how positively delicious that makes you sound, do you?”

Closing his eyes, Neville endeavoured to bite back those sounds. It started to become a failing battle after the vampire began to shift in a horribly familiar way, its tongue starting to venture lower and lower until it found one of his nipples while one of its hands made the slow, agonising journey down to his cock. For the second time, Neville found himself unable to hold back his almost pained moans as the vampire handled his cock with a grip just this side of too tight, as the vampire tantalised either nipple with licks and frightening little bites.

Neville couldn’t restrain a yelp as he finally came, but was still clear-headed enough to hear the whisper of, “My name is Ted” fall breathily into his ear as the vampire bit it, sending waves of pleasure through his shaking body.

By the time Neville came to, the vampire (or Ted, as it were. If the smarmy molesting bastard wasn’t lying) was gone, and with him, the oppressive tingling of the magic-suppressing wards. Neville didn’t take more than one minute to summon every fragment of his shaky strength and Apparate, and when he collapsed wearily to the floor in the Ministry saferoom, he did so with a distinct thought that this could get very, very annoying, after a while.

*    *    *

“Fuck you, Harry! I’m answering fuck-all if you don’t tell me what the fuck’s going on, understand? If you don’t feel like sharing your super-secret DOM crap, you can kiss my arse and find some other poor sod to be your frigging contact, all right?” Neville pulled his head out of the flames, suppressing sympathy for just how frazzled Harry looked as he did so. He stood slowly, muttering to himself as he tried to soothe his aching knees. A snort made him look up.

“I told you applying to him would be useless,” Severus said smugly, pointedly not looking in Neville’s direction. Neville rolled his eyes, deciding it was probably about time for him to go in search of a shirt to replace the one the vamp- the one Ted had so casually ripped to shreds. Ever since their turbulent, disastrously on-off relationship towards the end of the War (near-death experiences had done strange, strange things to Neville’s libido at seventeen), Severus had made it a point not to eye him up or even (in some cases) look at him while he was undressed in any way. It was really quite stupid, since Neville had it on very good authority that Severus couldn’t keep his eyes off the arse of the firmly straight and perpetually conventionally dressed Harry, not to talk of the back of Neville’s sometimes admittedly too-tight Muggle jeans.

“Sometimes, I wonder,” Severus went on, his tone cutting as his eyes flicked hastily away from Neville’s chest as he struggled into one of the slightly ratty school-issue things that were always present in the storerooms at Hogwarts, always serviceable if a bit tight on the arms nowadays, “how that uselessly indiscreet boy turned into such a tight-lipped, stuffy old man –”

“Severus, I don’t feel like grousing about Harry at this moment, all right? He’ll come round, he always does, as you know very well,” Neville said, cutting into Severus’ familiar diatribe. “And besides, weren’t you about to tell me what that bite might’ve done?” After a minute or two of glaring (Severus had always liked to finish off his points), Neville was allowed to finally sit down at the smallish table before the fire in Severus’ quarters and go through the information his crabby ex-lover had gathered on such short notice.

The prognosis was awful, to say the least.

“According to at least three-quarters of the books in my possession, you should be quite the vampire as of now,” Severus said slowly. “The other quarter disagree, but mostly insist that you are now the undying mate of the vampire that bit you –”

“You’ve got to be joking,” Neville said, voice hushed. Yelling wasn’t going to make this go away. No – if the books were right, nothing was going to make this go away –

“And, if you had some form of sexual intercourse with your vampire –”

“Please, for the love of Merlin, don’t call him that!”

“ – consensual sexual intercourse, that is,” Severus went on doggedly, not meeting Neville’s eye, “then you have only strengthened the bond to the degree that no outside manipulation will be able to break it.” Neville’s head sunk down into his hands. There really were no words – “Did you –”

“Of course I fucking did not, how dare you insinuate –”

“I’m insinuating nothing, Neville,” Severus said, voice oddly – good Lord, no – soothing. Soothing, from Severus, was as good as telling you your life was over, and that he was trying to assuage himself of the guilt that watching you die would probably bring about. Good Lord, indeed – “The problem is –”

“Just say it, I’m doomed –”

“Consent in these books is, er, classified as both verbal and non-verbal, you see,” Severus went on, ignoring Neville’s desperate tone. “Now, if you actively said no –”

Neville froze.

Severus did the same, for a moment. “Well, then. I’m afraid you might be in a bit of a quandary.”