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Neville Longbottom stared through a gap in the bedcurtains, giving all his attention to a small mound on the floor that was illuminated by early-morning sunlight.

He wanted to focus on the mound because that way, he could avoid focusing on the fact that he was not alone in his bed.

Or on the fact that it wasn't even his bed.

What had he done? What the hell had he done?? He'd had only one glass of Ogden's last night, so he couldn't use drink as an excuse.

Yet here he was, waking up in someone else's bed. With that someone still in it, lying warm against his side.

A someone he never, ever -- not in a million years -- dreamed would possibly be interested in sleeping with anyone as hopelessly un-cool as Neville Longbottom.

It must have been a mistake. Any second now, the body next to him would stir and open its eyes and be horrified when they saw who they were waking up next to. He could almost hear them now, hear how they'd gasp, "Oh, no, oh, Merlin, no. . ."

Neville felt his face flush, and he concentrated even harder on the mound on the floor. Was it a sleeping kneazle or a --

Oh, no. Oh, Merlin, no.

It was his own robes and boxer shorts, everything turned inside out, as if pulled off in haste. His trousers seemed to have disappeared entirely.

Damn. Now he couldn't even try to tell himself that he hadn't actually had sex at all, that all those memories of panting and kissing and hot skin and bucking hips had been only a dream.

He was just starting to wonder if he could slide quietly out of the bed and sneak off home when he felt a hand trail down his bare back.

"Morning, Nev," said a sleepy voice. (Such a sexy voice, too, Neville couldn't help thinking, and then mentally kicked himself for being so weak as to let his mind still go there. Last night had been a one-night stand, something never to be repeated, and he might as well face that fact.)

"M-morning," he stammered. "Um. . .look, I'm really sorry."

"Are you?" The hand pulled Neville's shoulder, turning him around, and he found himself staring into the puzzled, rugged face of Charlie Weasley.

"Sorry for what?" Charlie said, a frown creasing his forehead. (Or maybe it was a dragon scar, Neville couldn't be sure. But it was damned sexy, and Neville closed his eyes to avoid distracting himself.)

"For. . .for last night," he mumbled.

"That's too bad," said Charlie. "Because I'm not sorry. I thought last night was great."

Neville was so astounded that his eyes popped open in spite of himself, and he only half-noticed the normally-embarrassing squeak in his voice as he asked, "You're not? You did?"

Charlie laughed and propped himself up on his elbow, the sheet falling away to reveal his muscled, ginger-furred chest. It was all Neville could do not to run his fingers over the scars left from Charlie's many encounters with dragon fire.

"No, I'm not, and yes, I did," Charlie answered, grinning, but then his face sobered. "Why would you think I'd be sorry?"

"Why?" Neville sat up (after first checking to be sure that the sheet covered him) and tried to shape his thoughts into something that wouldn't sound too pathetic.

"Why?" he said again. "Well, because you're Charlie Weasley, and I'm just. . ."

Charlie ran a calloused hand through his shock of tousled red hair. "You're just what? A right interesting bloke? A credit to Gryffindor? A brave -- "

"No!" Neville burst out. "No! I'm not brave, I'm no 'war hero' or whatever they blather about in the Daily Prophet or those stupid speeches at memorial events. . ."

Like the one yesterday, a ceremony held for the second anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts. Neville's gran had insisted that they attend, and in truth, Neville would have gone anyway, to see Fred Weasley and Professor Lupin and Colin Creevey and the others justly honoured.

And if he were totally honest, he'd also hoped to catch a glimpse of Charlie, whom he'd admired (from afar, of course) ever since seeing him, arm muscles bulging, wrangle dragons during the Triwizard Tournament.

He wasn't sorry he'd gone, but those ceremonies always came with a cost: he inevitably had to suffer through hearing yet again the story of his encounter with Voldemort's snake, and it was always presented as some great piece of heroism instead of what it really was, just desperation and idiotic reckless rage, and a lot of ridiculous luck.

When -- amazingly -- Charlie had actually come up to talk to him at the drinks reception afterward, Neville had almost run away. He'd still been smarting with embarrassment, because, as if the speeches weren't bad enough, Gran had clapped loudly at the sound of his name and shouted, "Woo-hoo! My grandson!" at the top of her voice.

But for better or worse, he hadn't run, and then he'd had to cope with the near-paralysing fear that at any moment, Charlie would realise that he was chatting (oh, god, and was he actually flirting?) with an imposter, not a "hero" but just a pudgy near-squib who still felt afraid of the world half the time.

Now that he was, beyond all logical expectation, sitting here naked in Charlie's bed, the fears rushed back. Suddenly, everything seemed foolish and futile.

Neville let out a long breath and leaned wearily against the pillows.

"I'm not a hero," he said again, quietly, staring at the bed canopy. "I'm nothing special."

Charlie was silent, and Neville knew he was trying to think of some kind way to end things, because Charlie was a kind man -- some nice, unhurtful way to say a clean goodbye so that he could head back with relief to Romania and his dragons.

Finally Charlie drew a breath, and Neville steeled himself.

"I want to tell you something about dragons," Charlie said. "They don't respond to words, did you know that? You can't train 'em with the dragon equivalent of 'sit' or 'fetch' or anything like that. Try it, and they'll just burn you to a cinder. But I'll tell you what they do respond to: actions. Treat 'em with respect, give 'em their dignity, and they'll know you're someone they can trust. Oh, they'll still burn you," he laughed, as he saw Neville glance at his scars. "But not with malice or any lasting harm. Well, not most of the time, anyway."

He leant forward to look Neville in the eye. "Do you understand what I'm trying to say?"

Neville shook his head. "Not really, no," he confessed, feeling stupid. "Sorry."

Charlie gave a rueful sigh. "I guess I'm not much better with words than dragons are. But here's the point, Neville: I don't care about the words. 'Hero,' 'brave,' 'chosen one,' whatever. . .none of that matters to me. I don't care what the Daily Prophet calls you or doesn't call you. All I care about is what you do. I look at you, and I see someone who does good things, smart things, someone who is nice and funny and damned hot. I see someone I'd like to get to know better. If you want the same thing, then we can see where this goes. If not, just say so, no hard feelings."

Neville longed to say something funny and clever, or funny and profound, or even just funny. Instead, he heard himself blurt, "You think I'm hot?"

Charlie roared with laughter. "Hot? Hot?" he demanded. "Merlin, yes, I think you're hot. Trust me, Nev, dragon's breath has got nothin' on you!"

He reached out to pull Neville into a bear hug, and as he did, he whispered, "Are we good?"

Neville couldn't stop the grin from spreading across his face as he nodded. "We're good."

Then Charlie's hands roved down Neville's back, and his tongue found Neville's mouth, and soon Neville thought he knew how the dragons must feel.

No words necessary.