His father had insisted that Draco might find some advantage in making himself useful to the rebuilding effort at Hogwarts, so Draco had dutifully presented himself to McGonagall. "Greenhouse Three," she'd told him, barely sparing him a glance, and not long afterwards, Sprout hadn't said anything to him at all as she'd passed him a handful of cotton.
Draco wasn't surprised.
At least they allowed me to help, he thought, stuffing the cotton in his ears and beginning to transplant mandrakes from cracked pots into whole ones.
He'd got through about five when Neville Longbottom walked in, his sweat-drenched, ripped shirt clinging to his torso. Draco found himself staring as Longbottom tore it off himself to reveal more musculature than Draco would have expected—but that wasn't the only reason he stared.
Post-Nagini, Longbottom's walk had become more of a swagger, and his arse—of which Draco now had a superior view as Longbottom bent over a bucket of water to splash some on himself—had become somehow altogether annoyingly noticeable. It was disturbing. One didn't stare at Gryffindors' arses, after all. One didn't stare at blokes' arses, really, except that Draco always had. It was Zabini's arse he'd noticed first, but Potter's all-too-heterosexual arse that had held his attention throughout school. Longbottom's arse, he'd never once contemplated because, well, it was Longbottom's.
It's the swagger, that's all, Draco told himself, forcing his attention back to his task.
He'd got through five more pots before he felt the warm hand on his back. Starting, he turned to see Longbottom gesturing for him to go outside the greenhouse.
"Yes?" Draco asked, trying to sound disinterested once it was safe to remove the cotton from his ears.
"It's, uh, good to see you here—bit of a surprise, really, but good."
"Is it," Draco said, suddenly feeling defensive. He knew he wasn't anyone's favourite person, but he had come to help, and he had no intention of being mocked.
Longbottom's ears reddened. "What I mean is, um, that you're suddenly a deft hand with a spade, and I was wondering if you'd help me wrangle some of the experimental plants."
Draco ignored the compliment; he'd always known how to handle tools appropriately. "What experimental plants?"
"Well, Madam Sprout's got a frisky Devil's Snare in Greenhouse Two that needs to be transplanted."
"It, uh, it's grabby," Neville replied, flushing fully. "I don't like working with it alone, and I just can't seem to get it to cooperate today."
Draco nodded, now understanding how Longbottom's shirt had come to be ruined and feeling rather excited by the prospect of helping him. He knew how to deal with Devil's Snare; his mother had a patch of garden entirely devoted to the plant. He could see that Sprout's vine had already got its hooks into Longbottom, and his mind spun with the possibilities of what might happen were it to ensnare him again.
"Did you struggle?" he asked, before he could stop himself. "Er, before, when the vine got you?"
"I always forget not to, yeah," Longbottom said, grinning ruefully.
The grin was surprisingly charming, and Draco's mind filled with the image of the wayward vine wrapping its long, thick tendrils around Longbottom's extremities and holding him fast, and oh, he was definitely struggling in his mind's eye. Before him, Longbottom continued to flush under Draco's gaze, and that was lovely, too—and perhaps not merely from embarrassment.
"Lead on, then, Longbottom. I'd be happy make myself useful," he said, his daydream continuing to play in his mind. But not too soon, I think, should the vine capture you again.