The Pruning of Draco Malfoy (NC17) Title: The Pruning of Draco Malfoy Pairing(s): Neville/Draco, implied Neville/multiple others Word Count: ~8,100 Rating: NC17/R Summary: People are more like plants than they sometimes realise. Warnings: underage characters (17), AU, caning, mentions of torture, BDSM, character death (no main characters), reluctant!sex, public!sex, purple prose A/N: Initially the Draco/Neville scene was meant to be a flashback and setup for Neville's character development, with Neville ending up with someone else, before the flashback just took over and became the story. Someday I may write the other 'half'. Written for Sunporn.
The Great Hall is filled to the seams with students. All the seventh years are back as eighth years, because while they are all well versed in the casting and enduring of multiple dark curses, they are unsurprisingly lacking in their core classes. Neville thinks of themselves as Legacies - Survivors of a war. He feels his experiences like an indelible brand; certain he cannot, will not, ever forget. Too much happened that last year. Too many suffered; too many died. Too many things changed. The school itself, once his refuge, now holds memories of war.
Without Dumbledore as a Headmaster, the school had become little more than a prison camp. Half-bloods and Muggleborn were ejected from any class deemed too noble for their low birth; they were demoted to classes on cooking and cleaning and drudgery, taught by the house elves. Pure-blood bigotry was enforced for all the normal classes (even McGonagall's class was strictly monitored, her every word repeated to the Carrows and to Snape); those who refused to parrot their ideals were punished, often and severely. The only peace they had at all was at night, when they were sent to their respective dorms.
Angry and desperate to fight back, they fought amongst themselves, until - it was Seamus, Neville remembers this clearly - until Seamus came up with a lottery idea. They would compare days, and whoever had the worst day could take it out on whoever had the easiest day. It was utterly ludicrous in retrospect, but they'd grasped at straws, and somehow it had taken enough off the raw edge for them to get through each day.
Somewhere along the line the fighting had become fucking, then fucking and fighting. And from there things had gotten downright - well, downright kinky. In the privacy of their dorm room things were simplified and boiled down, until a line was drawn between Need to Hurt and Need to BE Hurt, and Neville usually ended up in the former category after the end of a torturous detention with the Carrows. He was surprised to find he liked being assertive; he was even more surprised to learn he liked causing pain, so long as it was clean (their rules had been simple: no hexes, no curses, no permanent damage). He liked feeling powerful when everything else was utterly out of his grasp.
He'd been disturbed to realise his propensity for pain, and had worried at this self-discovery like a sore tooth until he decided that it really wasn't so much different than gardening. Some of the things grown in the greenhouses were vicious and hurtful, but were useful in the right places, with the right safeguards. If he could find a use for his own tendencies, where they did more good than harm, then surely it was no different than, say, learning to use Venomous Tentacula to treat necrosis caused by Icethorn sap. Bringing back the affected area hurt like blazes and often made the patient no little bit ill, but it also brought back use of the frozen muscles. Or maybe - maybe it was more like trimming back a shrub or tree, so it can flower more beautifully, or fruit more prosperously. After all, pruning surely wasn't pleasant for the plant, tree or flower involved but it was still necessary for its health. Sometimes, he'd realised, it has to hurt before it can feel better.
He didn't set out to hurt people who didn't want to be hurt, or who weren't at least willing to be. He learned to recognise people who needed that kind of pain, and to offer what they needed. Even more, he learned to give them what they didn't know they needed, as well. He balanced pain and pleasure, anger and forgiveness, and found himself growing more confident for it.
The ritual had spread to the rest of Gryffindor house but it was Ravenclaw to first leap across the house boundaries, first to see something they needed and smart enough to make it work for them. They were the ones to put words to what they were doing - like BDSM and sadomasochism - and the ones to insist on a 'safewords' policy and insist nothing happened without supervision (they were careful, and Neville more so than any, but accidents still happened). Hufflepuff joined them, loyal and without judgment, and they all suffered together.
And then Slytherins had found their way into the circle. Well, one specific Slytherin who was so desperate to escape his ghosts he'd resorted to asking a Gryffindor for help.
* * * * *
A commotion at the portrait hole pulls Neville's attention away from his books, where he's making a half-hearted attempt to study Wizarding history. He has a vague idea of using it to contradict the pureblood propaganda Carrow is spouting, though he knows it'll earn him another detention or three (or a whole week). Still, it's dry going and he's relieved for an excuse to close his book when Seamus calls his name.
"Ey Longbottom, someone 'ere wants your 'special' skills," Seamus yells across the common room, "and you'll never believe who!"
Neville stands and stretches luxuriously, feeling joints pop as he twists and turns, relaxing stiff muscles. The past year has melted away the last of his pudge; he's not the baby-faced child he once was. None of them are children any more - the war has made them prematurely old - but he knows he looks like an adult now, too. Even more amazingly he finally feels at home in his own skin. He's confident in himself and what he believes in, and that means the Carrows hate him.
He thinks they're actually a bit afraid of him, and that thought helps him get through their vicious classes and detentions. It doesn't help much, but it's enough.
He walks over to the portrait, and blinks in shock when he realises it's Malfoy standing there. But after he stares at him for a moment, he's not so shocked; Malfoy looks like he has a dozen ghosts riding him hard each night. His eyes are haunted, and blue-purple shadows are smudged heavily beneath his grey eyes.
He's still arrogant, still imperiously demanding entrance, but it's the mute plea in his eyes for help that makes him fold his arms and silence Seamus long enough for Malfoy to stammer out his request. "What do you want?" he asks, simply.
Malfoy shifts nervously, looking at the others through narrowed eyes like he expects them to laugh. "Can't we talk somewhere else?"
"House rules. No one talks to a Slytherin alone. Considering how many detentions you've landed us in yourself, I think we're justified. If you can't say it in front of them, then come back when you can." He turns to leave and Malfoy actually reaches out like he might touch him, before pulling his hand back abruptly.
"I want what you do," he blurts, abruptly. "Everyone says you're good at it. Even in Slytherin, they're talking about you. I - need that." He breathes hard as if the admission took an olympic effort.
Except it might have been, Neville thinks. He'd admitted a need to a Gryffindor. And it's that fact, along with the haunted expression on his face that makes him actually consider it. "I will give you what you need," he tells him, ignoring the shouts of dismay (and glaring at the one person who cheered). "But there are some conditions you'll have to agree to."
He waits for Malfoy's jerky nod to continue. "You will agree to choose a safeword. You will agree to submit to what I think best for the evening. And it will happen in the Gryffindor common room."
He expects fireworks over the last point, and isn't disappointed. "If you think I'm going to let - let - while all of them are watching-" he spits, and Neville lets him rant until he runs out of steam.
Then he firmly explains his reasoning. "Slytherins have permission to move around Hogwarts after hours, but the other houses don't have that permission," he points out. "As for letting them watch - well, I have my reasons. But one of those reasons is safety. Mine and yours." He meets Malfoy's eyes unflinchingly. "If you can agree to those terms, let me know. Otherwise, you'll have to find someone else."
It takes Malfoy a week, but he does come back. He looks like he hasn't slept once in the past seven days. His eyes look bruised with exhaustion he walks like his body is too heavy. "My safeword is Serpensortia," he says, desperately, "Just, please!"
It's practically begging, for a Malfoy. He doesn't think he's ever heard the word 'please' on Malfoy's lips before. Neville looks at him, really looks at him, then steps aside silently and lets him enter.
The common room is crowded - unless they're serving detention, students are sent to their dorms after supper (except for Slytherins, who have run of the school till curfew). Malfoy pointedly ignores them with a frightened sort of courage that awakens Neville's sympathy. He doesn't ask Draco what ghosts he's fleeing; he can guess at many of them, but he's not there to play confessor.
He's there to be judge and jury, justice and mercy. First comes the pruning, he thinks, trying to imagine a Malfoy without the bigotry, without the arrogance. He imagines what it will take to let him be that person, and then he knows what he will use.
He summons a large 'toy box' and pulls out a cane, tucking his wand into his sleeve. It's long and slender, tapering away from the spiral-wrapped handle, and makes a nice ominous swish when he swings it experimentally. It feels good in his hand, easy to control, and he knows from experience that its bark is worse than its bite - it's a springy stingy cane, with just a bit of thud to it. And he thinks the thin black cane will look elegant on Malfoy's white skin.
Malfoy's eyes are wide, the pupils dilated so the silver is a thin ring around the black when Neville turns to face him with the cane lying across his open palms. He speaks in a low, firm voice so as not to spook him.
"This is what I will be using. I will strike you with it until I think you've had enough. You will do as I tell you, immediately and without protest. When I believe you've had enough, I will take care of your injuries. I usually follow up sessions with sex, and I always top. They come as a package deal. If you use the safeword, I'll stop, but that will be it. I never grant another session to someone who uses their safeword without good reason."
He watches as Malfoy wrestles with himself, no doubt trying to convince himself this is madness and he should be anywhere but here, but in the end he gives a bare nod. He hunches his shoulders, self-conscious and hyper-aware of all the Gryffindor eyes on him.
Neville smiles, slightly; Malfoy's about to feel a lot more self-conscious. "Strip and leave your clothes to the side. I promise they'll be pristine when you put them on again later." He sends a warning look at a known pair of pranksters; he'll let nothing interfere with his sessions (besides, itching powder on welts is something few people deserve to experience).
The blond freezes and stares at him in disbelief, but Neville holds his gaze without flinching. "All your clothes," he stresses, "no barriers, no hiding... no pretending."
For a long moment no-one breathes, then Malfoy shudders, squeezes his eyes shut, and begins shedding his clothing. Slytherin tie, grey jumper. His fingers fumble briefly with the buttons on his shirt, but then the white fabric joins the growing pile. His hands hesitate at his trousers, but then he shoves pants and trousers down together, toeing off socks and shoes and kicking the whole pile aside in a violent burst of motion. Last, he tosses his wand on top of the pile, and turns to face Neville.
Then he stands staring at the floor, hands fisted at his side. He stands so suddenly motionless he seems ignorant of the flurries of comments about his body and his nudity, but when Neville steps closer he can see his pulse fluttering frantically in the pale column of his throat, the rigidly defensive set of his shoulders, and the way he bites his lip.
The other Gryffindors in the room aren't kind and insult the size of his cock, his colouring, his parentage and more, and while Neville aches to silence them, he knows this part isn't supposed to be easy or comfortable. Many of the comments focus on the malevolent tattoo on Malfoy's left forearm, a grinning skull with a snake writhing through the gaping mouth. It makes him nauseous to see it up close, but he pulls Malfoy's arm closer to his face, gripping it tightly when he tries to tug away. Neville strokes his fingers over the black ink and forces himself to confront his fear and his hatred of Death Eaters, and in turn forces Malfoy to acknowledge what brought him here. The entire exchange between them is silent and unspoken, but neither of them is sure of exactly what was said.
When he drops Malfoy's arm and looks him in the eyes, he can almost smell Malfoy's terror. The common room is quiet enough to hear a pin drop while the Gryffindors wait to see what Neville will do. And part of him wants to hex Malfoy bloody, because he's wearing a mark that makes him part of the people who drove his parents insane. He wants to hex him until he begs for mercy, and almost his fingers itch to cast the Cruciatus -
His wand flicks up, and he casts two spells in rapid succession, and it's a good-sick feeling when Malfoy flinches from his sudden movement, but all he'd cast were a couple of Cleansing Spells. Hexing Malfoy won't make his parents suddenly sane.
He steps back from Malfoy and takes a deep breath and sets his wand aside, removing the temptation. He pulls off his tie and jumper and rolls his shirtsleeves to his elbow, exposing his own unmarked forearms. Any pain, any pruning done here tonight will be done the honest, old-fashioned way with his own two hands.
He takes his time taking a slow circuit of Malfoy; he explores the blond's body with light touches. The action is two-fold; he learns where Malfoy is sensitive and maps his strategy, while keeping Malfoy uncomfortable and aware of his presence. Neville won't let him escape or run away, even in his mind.
That doesn't mean he doesn't enjoy this part. His own skin is lightly sun-browned from hours in the greenhouses, his hands large and rough from working with plants. Malfoy's skin is clear and pale and silky-smooth, and Neville takes his time exploring. He strokes calloused thumbs over the dusty rose of Malfoy's nipples until they harden and he can hear Malfoy's sudden inhaled breath, and then he pinches the nubs gently - Malfoy responds with all the sensitivity of a hot-house flower, arching under his touch.
He traces the hollow of his throat, the slight concavity of his hairless sternum, the sharp lines of his clavicle, and the faint impression of ribs. He ghosts rough hands down Malfoy's trim waist and explores his hipbones, and delves into the golden curls at Malfoy's groin, ignoring the blond's sudden squeak. He clinically wraps fingers around Malfoy's half-hard cock, learning its length and breadth - more long than thick, a grower not a shower - and pulling back the foreskin to see the pink-purple glans. He cups Malfoy's bollocks in one hand and rolls them, squeezes gently to test the blond's nerve and pain tolerance.
He pats down his legs like a stable boy, gauging the muscle there, before moving around to his backside. He strokes down the shallow delineation of Malfoy's spine to the curve of his arse, then kneads the white globes roughly, digging his fingers in and spreading him so his arse is visible to everyone in the room, his arsehole a lovely rosy pink and frantically clenching under the intense scrutiny. He brushes one fingertip down through Malfoy's crack, and smiles when Malfoy shies away from the touch.
Examination complete, he steps back and swishes the cane through the air near Malfoy, watching him flinch from the whistling sound. "I'd prefer you to stand with your hands on top of your head and take it on your own two feet, but if you'd prefer to be tied, you may," he offers.
He's bemused when Slytherin pride makes Malfoy raise his chin and fold his hands on top of his head, but Malfoy's voice reveals his nervousness: high and tight with strain. "I'm ready." He's impressed, really, but keeps his face impassive.
He makes Malfoy wait for another long, agonising moment before he swings the cane, and then the sound of the cane hitting flesh echoes sharply through the room as a livid stripe blooms, rose-red, across the white globes of his perfect arse. He relishes the sharp "Ah!" that Malfoy lets slip, but spares no thought beyond that, letting his mind fall into the role.
Now is the pruning, he thinks, and he layers stripes on Malfoy with the same precision he plants a garden. He stops after every five lashes; it helps foster a sense of time passing, and helps Malfoy feel the pain. It's what he's here for, after all. None of the lashes are exceedingly hard, but he layers and criss-crosses them until Malfoy's white skin is glowing red, and when he runs a hand over Malfoy's arse he can feel the slight raised weals.
It's a good beginning, but just a beginning.
He puts more shoulder into it, changing to ten lashes between breaks, and measures his progress by the sweat forming on Malfoy's skin. He adds some stripes across Malfoy's shoulders, the small of his back, and the back of his thighs. He layers stripes across the crease of Malfoy's arse, and shivers to think of him sitting gingerly in classes the next day.
At some point Malfoy's pride breaks, and he becomes Draco. A stripe layered over a stripe over a stripe draws blood, and with it a shuddered sob. Neville lets himself look at Malfoy's face; his head is thrown back, his hands are fisted in his hair. His eyes are tightly shut and his lip is bitten bloody, and Neville wants to kiss it, lick it away.
But even more he wants to continue until Malfoy is utterly demolished, until all that's left is Draco so he can bloom the way he's supposed to. So he continues until the blond is sobbing hoarsely and trembling like a leaf in a gale, and his face is wet with tears and his backside glows red with heat, and Neville thinks he's a beautiful disaster.
He puts aside justice with the cane and gathers the blond in his arms, holding him tightly when he tries to twist away. He doesn't mind the tears or the snot or the smears of sweat and blood on his shirt and trousers; he thinks of it as a sort of rebirth. He half-drags, half-carries Draco over to the couch, thankful when the other Gryffindors look away. Punishment is public, but forgiveness is private, at least in Gryffindor.
Draco really is a mess; his face blotches when he cries and his nose is red, but he looks so open and vulnerable like this. Neville still thinks his swollen lower lip is utterly kissable, so he follows his impulse and does just that, hiding a smile when Draco starts at the touch of his lips. After a moment of frozen indecision he relaxes marginally, and Neville kisses him again, gently, holding back his hunger as he explores Draco's mouth with lips and teeth and tongue, sucking gently on the much-abused lower lip. When he sits back, Draco is still a beautiful disaster, but his lips are kiss-swollen and his eyes-half closed.
The couch is stationed in front of the fire and the warm flickering light bathes Draco until his skin looks limned in gold, and Neville treats him like he IS gold. He makes Draco roll onto his stomach and then he spends a full hour rubbing spicy-pungent ointment into every last whipmark, letting his hands bestow his forgiveness now that punishment was meted.
His hands trace much of their earlier route, but when he parts Draco's arse cheeks he can tell the blond has already forgotten this part of the deal. The blond tenses beneath his hands, arse cheeks flexing, so Neville slows down. The ointment is slick and slippery, and he rubs it into Draco's welted arse cheeks liberally, until it drips into the crack of his arse, and he helps rub it in, rubbing his finger over the crinkled entrance and pressing lightly until the muscle reluctantly parts and swallows the first joint of his finger.
Draco flinches, and Neville soothes him, using his free hand to rub gentle circles on his lower back where the welting is light. "Have you done this before?"
"Only with girls." His voice is strained, nervous, muffled by the couch cushions.
Neville works the first joint of his finger in and out, adding more of the ointment before pushing his finger deeper. It's incredible to think that he's going to fuck Malfoy - no, Draco. A month ago he would have sworn it was impossible.
His own cock is hard and straining against his trousers, hungry to feel that tight, grasping heat, but he ignores it, sliding his finger out again to add yet more ointment to his finger, before sliding it back in deeply. "How does that feel?"
"How is it supposed to feel? Like you have your bloody finger up my arse!"
Neville sighs and pulls his finger free - with reluctance - and nudges at Draco's hip. "This would be easier if you could relax, but we can start somewhere else."
Draco wiggles and rolls onto his back, wincing when the coarse weave of the fabric drags across his inflamed skin. "Can't you just - I don't know, do it? Get it over with?"
Neville is both dismayed by the sight of Draco's flaccid cock, and horrified by the idea of 'just doing it'. But it's not the first time he's had to seduce a reluctant or nervous lover and it will likely not be the last. He presses an admonishing finger against Draco's lips - they are soft, like velvet-smooth rose petals. "My rules," he reminds him.
He uses the same skills he used to keep him off-balance before, but now he does so to relax and arouse, and his lips and tongue echo his hands. He traces seemingly abstract patterns on Draco's skin, coaxing him to relax into the plush cushions, seeking out and rubbing at tense muscles. He learns he likes the feel of Draco's chest - his pectorals are understated, but feel smooth and solid beneath his hands. He likes feeling Draco's racing heartbeat, battering against his ribcage, and the way it stutters its rhythm when he rubs his rough fingertips over Draco's nipples.
So he does it again, light teasing circles until Draco's eyes flutter and he sighs and arches his chest into Neville's hands. He teases and pinches Draco's nipples until they harden and stand in tight little peaks, and then he bends over and uses his mouth, laving broad swipes across the dusky areola, sucking the nipple into his mouth and grazing it, lightly, with his teeth.
He gives himself over to worshiping Draco's chest with mouth, lips, tongue and teeth, and he's gratified when Draco responds to the attention with a flushed face, parted lips, and hands fisting the couch. When Draco sighs, gasps, or whimpers, it sounds like sex, and it goes right to Neville's cock. He's fascinated by Draco; he's so sensitive, so responsive, and so Neville handles him like the rarest orchids.
When both nipples have been laved, licked, and sucked and Draco is needy for more, Neville licks his way down the flat line of his stomach, delving into the hollow of his navel, and he almost groans when Draco's erection bumps his chin, leaving a smear of precome. It takes all his willpower to resist taking his cock in his mouth and swallowing him, but he wants this to be perfect; he wants Draco to remember this. He wants him to remember that it was a Gryffindor who gave him both justice and mercy.
So instead he avoids Draco's cock all together, and focuses on his scrotum. Draco has a lovely scrotum, balls just large enough to be a nice mouthful and not so hairy they're unpleasant. And Draco whimpers delightfully when he licks around the diameter of them, knees falling open to grant better access to Neville's mouth.
He draws one testicle into his mouth and rolls it across his tongue, nose buried in the dark-gold curls of Draco's groin, and wonders if Draco still remembers they're not alone in the room. He knows the other Gryffindors are listening to every sound they make while pretending to not watch, and he wants it that way. He wants them to learn something from this, too.
When he finally licks Draco's cock, the blond keens his need and arches upwards, and Neville thinks he's relaxed and aroused enough. He slicks his fingers with ointment again, and insinuates a finger between Draco's arse cheeks, pressing against his entrance. Draco tenses as he slides his finger in, but then Neville takes the head of his cock into his mouth and sucks, licking and drawing his attention away as he pumps a finger in and out.
Even with the distraction (Neville has lots of practice at giving head), Draco still hisses in discomfort when Neville adds a second finger. Neville is undaunted, sliding them in and out slowly until he can feel the muscle marginally relaxing, and then he curls them, searching for that spot. He knows he's found it when Draco makes a strangled sound of surprise and clenches around his fingers.
Once found, Neville focuses on hitting that spot while he fucks Draco with his fingers, scissoring them in and out and preparing him for his cock. Draco inhales sharply when Neville adds a third finger, but then Neville swallows him to the root and swallows around him, and any discomfort is forgiven. Draco fucks his mouth and he fucks Draco with three fingers and contemplates a fourth - he doesn't want to hurt him - but then Draco pulls his knees to his chest in invitation, and Neville decides three is preparation enough.
He sits back and drinks in the sight of a naked, wanton Draco, erection hard and bumping up against his stomach and glistening with saliva and there below, the slickly-glistening furl of his entrance, clenching as he focuses on it. Neville thinks he can't possibly be any more aroused; he wants to slide into that tight, welcoming heat and bury himself until he can feel the enflamed skin of Draco's arse against his thighs. Still, he forces himself to calmly and methodically unbutton his trousers and push them and pants down to free his erection.
There's a family legend that Longbottoms are actually named for their endowments, and it might as well be true. Neville is never worried about measuring up, but it does sometimes inspire fear or fresh nerves in the people he fucks. He watches Draco cautiously as he slicks his erection liberally, prepared to catch him if he bolts - after all, he hasn't spoken his safeword.
He's amused when Draco cracks an eye open to see what he's doing. Once he gets an eyeful of Neville's erection, he pales and starts to sit up, but Neville slides between the blond's thighs before he goes into a full-blown panic. "It's not as bad as it looks," he says, low and intent, and rubs his hip soothingly. "It'll burn at first, like my fingers did, but then I'll hit that spot, and it'll feel brilliant. Trust me."
He almost wants to laugh at his own words - asking a Slytherin to trust him, but incredibly, amazingly, Draco takes him at his word and leans back once more, though he still looks a little nervous and his cock isn't quite so eager. Neville takes that as permission and he lifts Draco's legs over his shoulders and lines his cock at his arse, and nudges.
Neville's proud of his control, but even he is human, and nothing tests his control so much as that first moment he breaches someone. All his instincts scream hard and deep, but he reigns himself in rigidly and holds still when the head of his cock breaches Draco, giving him time to adjust to his girth, the new feeling of fullness, the stretchy burn. He squeezes his eyes shut and thinks of Filch and his collection of kinky mags, of Dumbledore in a Speedo, of Goyle and a hippogriff, anything except the exquisitely tight ring of muscle gripping his cock.
When he's rebuilt his fraying control, he opens his eyes and shifts slightly, wrapping one hand around Draco's flagging erection and gently pumping it. "Alright, then?" His voice is ragged and he sounds breathless, but he thinks it's justified, given the situation.
Draco doesn't sound any better and his mouth is a grimace of discomfort. His "Alright, I think you can move," is tight with strain, but Neville takes him at his word and carefully presses forward, sinking slowly into the welcome heat of Draco's arse. He stops to get his breath when he's as deep as he can go, because he doesn't want to come too soon - he's trembling with the need to fuck, but he holds back for Draco. He remembers what it feels like to be penetrated for the first time, the impossible fullness and the white-hot pain that slowly settles to an intense, stretchy burn.
He casts about for a way to engage Draco's mind while letting him adjust. "What do you want to do when the war is over?"
Draco looks surprised at the question, or maybe it's just because Neville isn't fucking him through the couch yet. "I suppose take over the family business," he says, brow furrowed in mild confusion, while he breathes shallowly - Neville can still hear discomfort taut in his voice.
"No, I mean - if you had no obligations, no expectations, what do you want to do?" At Draco's look of incomprehension, he simplifies, "What do you like to do?"
Draco actually considers this. "Potions, I suppose. I'm decent at it, after all."
Neville ignores the implied insult, and nods for him to continue.
"And - and flying. I'm good at flying," he says, a bit wistful. "It's the most freeing feeling in the world. Quidditch is great, but I just love flying, as far and as fast as I can, on the fastest broom I can find." He sighs then shifts minutely. "Aren't you supposed to be buggering away or something?"
Even the slight movement feels brilliant. Filch in knickers, he chants mentally, then casts about for another question. "Have you ever, er, flown too high or something? Can you fly too high?"
Draco scoffs. "There's no such thing as too high. Sure the air is thinner, but a decent Bubblehead Charm works..."
Neville can feel him slowly relaxing and he experiments with a shallow thrust, heartened when Draco only inhales sharply, but doesn't tense. He lets Draco's words wash over him and sink into him while he sinks into Draco, and focuses on changing his angle slightly with each successive thrust. He's rewarded when Draco cries out in surprise and clenches around him. "Fuck!"
"I told you it gets better," he tells him, brow furrowed in concentration as he tries to hit the same spot again on each thrust.
So he does. He lets himself drown in the moment, and Draco unfurls like a garden in spring, and Neville fucks him. He catalogues every gasp, every sigh, every breathless cry Draco makes, and gives it back in spades. Draco begs for more and Neville lets his control go, now that it's safe to, now that control isn't needed - or wanted - anymore. He fucks him until the couch shakes and the air around them resounds with the lewd sounds of flesh slapping against flesh, and he's not sure where he ends and Draco begins. He fucks him hard enough to rattle his teeth and leave him sore the next day, and it's mad and it's wild and it's utterly brilliant, and he could easily, easily lose himself to the moment.
But he never forgets who this is for, and who it's about, he never forgets that after the pruning comes the healing, and he strives to finish laying the foundation.
He memorises the sight of Draco bent nearly double beneath him, face flushed and eyes dilated with arousal, and he wraps his hand around Draco's prick. "Don't forget where we are, Draco," he reminds him between gasping breaths and rapid thrusts of his hips, feeling a twinge of conscience when Draco's eyes widen and his lips part in protest. "Everyone's watching us, listening to us-"
And he strokes Draco's cock while fucking him through the couch, rusty springs punctuating every thrust.
Draco comes with a startled cry, his screamed exclamation loud in the hushed common room; no one there could have any doubt about what is happening.
His cry is beautiful and terrible to Neville, because it means he's done all he can do and all that's left is to finish it. He closes his eyes and pulls Draco close, and lets the clenching of Draco's arse wring his own orgasm from him.
He gives them a few minutes to catch their breath, and then he summons a cloth to clean up their emissions and helps Draco into his clothing. Draco is flushed bright red, though the crimson colour eases when Neville whispers into Draco's ear the number of Gryffindors who'd been in his shoes.
When he's done and standing at the portrait entrance, Draco fidgets nervously. "So, that's it? I don't owe anything?"
Neville shakes his head. "Just remember this: everyone can act a part, but maturity is knowing when to put it aside. Have a good night, Draco," he adds, and then turns away. He's relieved to hear a smattering of voices wish Draco good night; his gamble worked, at least in part.
But it's small consolation when he returns to his cold, empty bed in his dorm and dreams of someone who can think of his needs.
* * * * *
The Final Battle had been - terrible. Students turned warriors and killers, facing off against madmen and murderers, the cold terror and the hot rage, the smell of singed stone and the bright flares of spells flying. But Neville remembers the sounds the most. The rumble of falling masonry, the hiss-sizzle of cast spells, the explosions when they hit. The screams and sobs of people under the Cruciatus, the heart-rending wail of someone who's lost a loved one. He'll never forget the words of the spells cast, the way some are spit coldly without concern, while others linger lovingly on syllables meant to harm. The way his professors and classmates shout counter and curse with frightened bravado, and the terrible, awful silence when a voice is silenced abruptly.
Then the war had ended; they'd briefly mourned their dead and rebuilt their homes, their businesses, and their school. And at first glance now around the Great Hall it looks like nothing has changed. The clamour of voices rise and fall in ripples of sound, conversations rooted in the mundane - who's seeing who, The Dread Sisters' latest album, the newest broom model - but Neville isn't comforted by the illusion of normalcy. He can't pretend nothing's changed, because he doesn't know what normal is anymore.
Everyone seems desperate to pretend everything is just the same as it was. But everywhere he looks, he sees change. Lavender's wearing a glass eye - it moves a second behind her other, though no one comments on it. Luna's face has a wide silvery scar, and he knows it continues down her neck and over her ribs - she'd almost died of her wounds. Finnigan waves his hands with animation as he talks, largely to disguise the remains of a tremor that will never quite go away. Pansy Parkinson refuses to take her cloak off, because she doesn't want anyone to see the artificial arm she has. Nor are the professors spared - Rolanda Hooch lost a foot, and Flitwick is deaf in one ear. McGonagall must forever rely on a sturdy walking-staff, and even Hagrid has lost fingers to a Severing Curse - though they managed to at least re-attach his thumb (they never found the other fingers).
Even worse are those faces outright missing. Colin Creevy - Dennis makes an effort to converse with his year mates, but Neville can tell he still has nightmares by the circles under his eyes. Cho Chang. Gregory Goyle. Marietta Edgecomb. Susan Bones is absent, but still alive – St. Mungo's is hoping she'll be able to walk, someday.
Neville's eyes are drawn to the wall behind the staff table - hundreds of small bronze tags are mounted on the wall, each with the name of a witch, wizard, or Muggle fallen in the war. It's a grim reminder of the war, and he can't imagine pretending it didn't happen. He doesn't want to pretend it didn't happen, because he doesn't want to be the Neville he was before the war. He doesn't want to be timid, stupid, stammering door-mat Neville, and he won't play along with their game of let's-pretend.
But when he looks for the blokes he'd helped before - blokes who'd fucked him, blokes he'd fucked, blokes he'd held as they'd cried and cried with them - they refuse to meet his eyes. Dean leans into Lavender and laughs a little louder. Finnigan's hand-waving antics are an attempt to impress Parvati. Ginny Weasley has a death-grip on Harry's hand under the table, and Hermione and Ron are snogging at the table - and no one bothers to scold them.
He tries to catch Draco's eye, but he's gone back to acting a Malfoy, looking down his nose at everyone. Goyle's place is filled by Pansy; he has an arm around her shoulder protectively, so Neville guesses he's thankful he's learned something about being a decent human being. But it still hurts when Draco flushes and avoids his eyes, and Neville wonders if Draco will go back to calling him Longbottom and shoving him in the hallways; so far, Draco's just ignored him. Neville can't imagine calling him Malfoy when he's fucked him into a screaming orgasm, but he can't call him Draco without being insulted for it, so he doesn't call him anything - there's no real call to speak, anyway. They don't even share Potions class anymore - Neville's taking Potions with the 6th years, while Draco studies with the 7th and 8th years.
Most of the Professors teach class like nothing's changed (all avoiding the subject of war - even ghostly Binns is awake and aware enough to keep his lectures mostly free of war, a feat in and of itself). McGonagall still teaches transfiguration and still docks points for those who are late (but she turns a blind eye when it's Boot, who's still learning to walk quickly on an artificial leg, and no-one comments on the irony of his surname matching his injury). Flitwick adds more Cheering Charms than usual to his curriculum, and in return no one comments on the way he tilts his head to hear better from his good ear. Hagrid is normal, or normal for Hagrid, at any rate. He booms and bellows his way through his lessons enthusiastically, though he fumbles sometimes when he forgets he lacks some fingers. It never deters him for long, though.
The most dramatic change is in Potions. Neville didn't expect to ever again set foot in the Potions lab when he didn't make NEWTS, but the Board of Governors apparently bullied Snape into opening a Remedial Potions class (something about Harry and equal opportunities, though Harry scowls when it comes up). Snape covers all his normal Potions classes and still manages as Headmaster, though he has the best of the 7th and 8th year Potions students help with the Remedial and First-Year classes. He still snarls and scowls and intimidates the students (one of the Firsties is rumoured to have fainted upon seeing him for the first time, having heard stories about him during that year), but he's quieter and his voice has a raspy, whispery quality to it. The ragged scar from the snake bite is just visible over the edge of his collar. Rumor says the injury is painful and resistant to healing.
Neville wants to think Snape deserves it - he'd cast as many Crucios on students as the Carrows had, and had seemed to enjoy it. Neville had writhed, more than once or twice, at the end of Snape's wand and the man had never wavered. Either he was really good at stuffing his conscience down where he couldn't feel it, or he lacked a conscience all together. Either of which benefited a spy.
Snape had killed Bellatrix, though, and for that Neville owes him, and it's a twisted circle that hurts to think about because he thinks his parents would kill Snape for using a spell on him that had driven them insane. Except of course they can't, because they are insane, and Snape's the one who avenged them. But Neville wishes, too, that he could have killed Bellatrix himself. He dreams of it sometimes, but then other nights he wakes from nightmares and he's glad he's never killed someone. Even in the fighting when he had every reason to -
He'd only ever cast to disarm or disable. None of them even knew how to kill, not really. Perhaps if they'd been taught that instead of the Cruciatus, or instead of countless repetitions of Protego, none of which blocked the killing curse - perhaps there'd be fewer people missing from the Great Hall. Perhaps there would be more Death Eaters dead.
And perhaps more people would be having nightmares of glassy eyes and blood on their hands. We were too young to fight, Neville thinks with despair, and he longs to be needed and wanted again. He longs for a time that, while terrible, was simple in its cruelty. When the past could be erased with the kiss of a whip, and forgiveness bestowed with sex.
I miss that, he realises, and wonders if there's something wrong with him for missing anything from that horrible, nightmarish year. Only good things had happened, too.
He doesn't see how he can forget the bad things without forgetting the good things, and so he remembers it all.
He stares at his plate with its cold shepherds' pie, mushed together into an unappetizing mess, and feels lonely, even though he's surrounded by friends.
* * * * *
He's still sitting there, lost in thought, when someone slides onto the bench seat across from him. He sees his plate is long gone, though a house elf apparently thinks he hasn't been eating - a small plate with a portion of treacle tart is planted beneath his nose.
When he lifts his head, he's surprised to see the Great Hall is empty and the tables cleared away. Draco Malfoy sits across from him, brows furrowed in concern. "Alright there?"
Neville blinks at him, still feeling a bit dazed from his introspection, then looks over at the Slytherin table where Draco and Pansy had sat and laughed together through the dinner meal.
"What?" Draco picks up on the unspoken question a minute later. "Oh, you mean me and Pansy? You didn't honestly think - Merlin, no. No. Pug-faced Pansy? It'll never happen. Besides, her father's not too happy about the Malfoys ever since Potter let slip that Mum lied to help him." He sounds disgruntled, but when Neville looks at him, he can see amusement dancing in the grey eyes.
Draco leans forward and props his elbows on the table, pureblood manners abandoned in his earnestness. "Slytherins aren't well liked right now, and largely with good reason," he admits aloud, "and Pansy's having a hard time of it. It's her wand arm she lost, you know, and she's not picking up the wand movements well with her left. She's afraid of not being able to defend herself - it was a Gryffindor who hexed her, you know," Draco adds, indignant and bristling. "She wasn't even in the fighting!"
"I didn't know." Neville thinks of the times Parkinson turned them in to the Carrows - sometimes with made up accusations, just to hear them scream. He can't really feel sorry for her, though he wonders if she would have turned out differently if she'd come to him like Draco had. He wonders what whip or flogger or cane he would have used on her, and he's thankful he never had to make that choice.
They sit in silence for a while; the Great Hall's charmed ceiling shows a glorious sunset. It makes Draco look like liquid gold again. The memory is enough to make Neville's cock harden and his mouth go dry, but he gathers his Gryffindor courage in both hands, though he's still half afraid to ask. "Need something?"
Draco looks offended, sneering down his aristocratic nose at Neville. "Need something? How utterly plebeian. Good Merlin, no, I need nothing from you."
Neville blinks, once, twice, and tells himself firmly that he's not hurt, because he expected this in the first place. But he's tired of doing all the gardening. Alone, at least. He wants to put down roots with someone who's willing to stay the duration. Cultivate something more than - than whatever it was he did. Pruning. Healing. Justice. Mercy.
He thinks, however sentimental, that he wants something rather like love.
Then he hears a heavy, aggrieved sigh, and an arm slips around his shoulder. When he twists his head to examine the hand resting there, a silver ring with a deep green stone - etched with an M in all elegant curlicues - glints at him with the last of the sunlight. He twists his head the other way, to stare at Draco quizzically.
Draco is avoiding his gaze again, staring quite fixedly at the banners hanging over the Slytherin table. But his face, oddly, looks a little flushed. Neville's about to ask him if he has a fever when Draco heaves another sigh and adds, with a bit of annoyance, "I don't need anything, Longbottom, but... I might want something. Not - not punishment," he hastens to explain, and now Neville can see that Draco is flushing.
He finds it rather endearing and stares with fascination at the crimson stain creeping across the blond's face while the blond fumbles on. "I mean, if you really want to use the - the whips and what have you, they were all right, I guess. But I'll hex you seven ways to Sunday if you leave so much as a mark on my skin! And the sex was - more than a bit of all right, so I'd be amenable to plenty of that," he concludes.
Neville stares some more after the conclusion of his rather bizarre confession. "So..." he says slowly, sorting through Draco's words and implications. "You're saying you fancy me?"
Malfoy's ears are burning now too, but he tries to look superior anyway. "Bit thick, aren't you? Of course that's what I'm say --mph!"
* * * * *
If anyone notices how gingerly Draco Malfoy is sitting the next morning they are careful not to comment, neither then nor in the weeks and months that follow. Sometimes there is joking about how Longbottom 'cut Malfoy down to size' – never malicious because everyone's seen the way Neville wields a whip - but he just shakes his head in bemusement.
"I didn't cut anyone down," he corrects whoever it is. "I just did a little pruning."