FIC: Toffee and Clover (Neville/Severus, R) Title: Toffee and Clover Author: Serpenscript Pairing: Neville/Severus Rating: R for nudity and past themes of violence Wordcount: 2000~ Kinks: Healing touch? :X Warnings:Mental trauma, PTSD, past abuse/torture Summary: When Severus is locked in the past, Neville's touch brings him home again. Notes: Written for Hellebore, who wanted pet!Severus and hurt/comfort, and no smut :P
Nights were difficult. Nights were filled with shadows and sounds: the wind against the windows, branches scraping against the roof of the cottage, the tick of the mantel clock abnormally loud in the midnight hush. Nights brought dreams, and with the dreams came old memories, old terrors, and old hurts. The days had gotten easier, but the night terrors still gripped both of them sometimes until they woke sweaty and tangled in knotted sheets, throats hoarse from screaming.
Nights were difficult. War was difficult - but they were healing. That was what was important.
Mornings - mornings were better. The wounds left by war were less daunting to face in the light of day, the rosy rays of dawn helping to dispel the night terrors.
Neville yawned as he sat up, alone in his large empty bed. His lover never shared it at night; while the comfort of waking up next to a loved one was helpful, reflexes honed from war made them too prone to hex when waking from the cusp of a nightmare. Nor was it pleasant to be kicked or struck in the face by a flailing partner. Peaceful nights were rare enough; they missed being able to sleep next to each other, but the nights of untroubled sleep made things seem easier to bear.
He flung his window open to let in the air as he dressed. He didn't bother with robes anymore. Out in the privacy of their countryside home he usually dressed in denims washed so often they were soft and faded. He pulled a tee-shirt over his head that was once black. Now it was faded to a sort of blue-grey, and he found he liked the soft color better than the solid black, although the black had hid stains better. The shirt was so old that it resisted stain-removal charms; there was a purplish splotch over the left shoulder from the sap of a particularly ill-tempered Lady’s Slipper.
When his face was washed and his hair combed, he moved across the hall to rap on the door to his lover's room, frowning when it was silent. That was never a good sign; he’d hear him moving around if it was a good day, and the rap on the door would earn him a sarcastic greeting.
He rapped on the door again. “Severus? Are you awake? I’m coming in. I’ll leave my wand out here.” There was a small table outside Snape’s door, and he set his wand on it before gently easing the door open. If it was one of Severus' bad days, the sight of a wand - raised or not - would send him into a panic.
Snape's bed was empty; the bedding was a tangled mess, half off the mattress. A wrinkled grey nightshirt lay discarded on the floor. Severus himself huddled in a corner, and Neville sighed. It had been a very bad night, then.
Neville held his hands up to show he was unarmed, and spoke in a soothing tone as he approached, but Severus still trembled, whining when he dropped to his knees. His arms and legs were folded underneath him in a familiar position, hands curled like paws. His hair was tangled from sleep and damp with sweat, clinging to his skin.
“Shhh,” Neville said, softly, heart wrenching at the painfully familiar way Severus stared blankly at the floor, unable to look up. He’d come so far, but particularly bad nights made him regress to the state he’d been in when Aurors had found him during a raid on Riddle Manor. No one knew how long he'd been there, exactly, and the memories were muddled in Snape's head by bouts of insanity broken by periods of lucidity.
He'd been kept as the Death Eater's pet for the greater part of a year, at least. He'd been incapable of standing or speaking when they'd found him - a cowering, beaten shadow of his former self.
Neville reached out and gently placed a hand on Severus’ head. He didn’t let any of his grief show when Severus flinched violently and whined low in his throat. He kept his hand there until Severus relaxed slightly, some of his fear easing when pain did not immediately follow.
“Good, Severus, very good,” he praised gently. “Good boy, I’m not going to hurt you, see?” He curled his fingers into Snape’s sleep-mussed hair and slowly combed through the dark strands, prematurely shot with silver. He kept up the gentle caress until more tension melted from his lover’s body and Severus finally leaned, ever so slightly, into his palm. “That’s it, Severus,” he murmured. Severus couldn’t understand anything when he was like this, but he said he still understood tone and body language.
So no matter how sad or how upset he was, Neville was careful to keep his tone light and reassuring and his posture relaxed and non-threatening. “Ready to go out, now? It’s a beautiful day, the sun is shining and you can smell the flowers.”
‘Outside’ was one of the words Severus could understand in this state - along with words like good dog, bad dog, sit, stay, roll over, fetch, and a handful of others.
Severus whined, but lifted his head, and Neville smiled lightly. “Outside, Severus. Feel the sun on your skin - you like that, don’t you,” he encouraged, moving to his feet slowly. This time Snape barely flinched when Neville carded his fingers through his hair.
“Come on, up, Severus, on your feet,” he coaxed. He was relieved when Severus pushed himself to his hands and knees without protest; some mornings he was so shaken by his nightmares and flashbacks he trusted no one, not even Neville.
“That’s it, Severus, good boy,” he praised quietly, moving back a step. Severus hesitated, then followed, hands and knees shuffling across the floor. Step by slow step Neville led Severus out of his room and through the open living area of their cottage, and finally out the door and into the sunshine. He stopped only when they were well clear of the path and surrounded by grass and flowers. The nearby brook burbled quietly in the background.
He found a comfortable hollow in the long grass and settled himself on the ground; ignoring the way his denims immediately soaked up the dew. He patted the grass next to him, after checking for any uncomfortable rocks. “Come, Severus,” he said quietly. “Come lay down, here.”
This time Severus didn’t hesitate. Neville suspected if he had a tail, it might be wagging ever so slightly from the feel of grass beneath his hands and sun on his skin. He padded silently over to Neville and curled on his side next to him. His skin was almost a blinding white against the verdant green of the grass.
Neville gave him a moment to get comfortable, then gently placed a hand on Snape's side, pleased when he only flinched slightly. Even after all these months with regular meals and all the extra sweets that Molly Weasley sent, he could still line his fingers up in the hollows of Snape’s ribs. He could still feel the ropey lines of scars that littered Severus' torso. They’d faded from an angry red to white, but they showed up silver under the sun and Severus shivered as he smoothed his calloused fingers over the scarred skin. His fingers moved from shoulder to hip and back again; petting him, like a dog.
In his flashbacks, Snape was a dog; a man broken and tortured and treated like a dog until his mind believed it, retreated into it for his sanity. A dog, after all, wasn’t ashamed to be naked; wasn’t humiliated to be called dog, or forced to eat from a bowl on the floor.
Neville kept up the light caress until his arm grew tired and the sun rose overhead, and the thick scent of meadowsweet and clover filled the air. They had never touched him gently. Cursed him, beat him, made him suffer terrible things - but never touched him kindly, gently.
He used touch to bring him back, treasuring the measure of peace Snape found in being petted like this, long white limbs sprawled in the grass and head heavy against his thigh. He chattered aimlessly - about the flowers he saw, the bird that kited overhead, what he’d make for dinner. When he ran out of words, he hummed, tunelessly.
And finally, sometime around noon, when Snape’s skin was beginning to take a pinkish tinge from too much sun, Severus shuddered. When Neville glanced at him, he saw only awareness in the dark eyes. His hand paused for a moment, then continued its meandering path: shoulder to hip, hip to shoulder. “Welcome back, Severus.”
Severus exhaled and stretched carefully, then twisted, wrapping his arms around Neville’s waist, burying his head against Neville’s stomach. “Was it very bad?” His voice was hoarse, as if he’d screamed himself raw - but Neville knew he didn’t scream. Not anymore. Whined, or yelped, or whimpered, but never screamed.
“Nothing you haven’t done for me.” He hadn’t had as many episodes lately, and none as severe as his lover’s - but there were still days he woke from night terrors a shaking mess, unable to speak or move a muscle - literally paralysed with grief and fear.
Severus made a sound, muffled against his stomach, but didn’t argue. Neville cheered, inwardly; another point for progress. He preferred to focus on the positives; if he didn’t, they might drown under the negatives. “You’re starting to turn pink.”
“Merlin forbid I turn such a garish, florid color,” Severus muttered, managing a half smile against Neville’s ribs. “How long was I out of it?”
Neville moved his hand from Snape’s side to comb the hair from Severus’ face, smiling when his lover scowled. He only scowled when he felt safe; when he felt like himself, and Neville treasured every scowl and sarcastic word. “Long enough that it’s time for luncheon. Too late to cook, but some sandwiches sound good,” he offered.
Severus turned his head, brushed thin lips across Neville’s palm, and smiled at the dazzling smile he got in return. “Is there enough of last night’s roast for sandwiches?”
“Assuming you didn’t have a midnight snack, there should be.” He huffed a laugh as Severus got up, only to change position and lay back down, pillowing his head on Neville’s leg. “Severus, I can’t make sandwiches from here!”
“We’ve time, Neville. It’ll still be there come supper, won’t it?”
“If you skip lunch now, you should have pudding with supper, too.”
Neville heaved a put-upon sigh; completely fake, as Severus smirked at him. “If you must. How did you know Molly sent some over?”
“Please - I can smell it all the way out here. I haven’t lost any of my sense of smell at least!” Severus scoffed, eyes darkening.
“You haven’t lost your other skills, Severus,” Neville said quietly, brushing fingers over Snape’s cheek when he closed his eyes. “You’ll find they’re all still right there, in your hands and in your mind, when you’re ready to remember and when you need them. Trust me, Severus - they didn’t take that from you.”
Snape’s lips tightened; but after a moment he chose to not argue - another point! Neville thought - and nodded once, in concession.
Neville smiled, crookedly. “You know, toffee pudding is best while it’s warm and melty still. It’s never the same if it’s reheated.”
Severus opened one eye and stared at him; then opened the other and stretched. “It would be a terrible thing to reheat pudding. In fact, we should skip sandwiches and go straight to pudding, lest it go cold.”
“Ha! If it’ll get you up, I might agree - but you’ll still have to eat a sandwich afterwards. No filling up on pudding!” It pleased him to see Severus banter about such simple pleasures. And Molly Weasley’s toffee pudding was a marvel.
“Lunch it is, then.” He rolled to his knees, and let Neville stand and stomp the circulation back into his feet. He accepted the hand up, wincing as his joints creaked. The meadow seemed smaller now that he was standing, and he pressed his shoulder to Neville’s as they crossed the short distance to the cottage and toffee pudding.
It was moments like these - naked and sunburned in the grass, surrounded by flowers and the air smelling of clover and toffee, that gave them strength to meet each day a little stronger, a little more whole.