Rating: PG for a few curse words
Word Count: ~2700 words
Disclaimer: I own nothing from the Harry Potter world. This is all in fun.
Summary: Draco’s keeping secrets from Neville.
A/N: Thanks needs to go to J for the inspiration when I didn’t know what I was going to write and to H for the beta. Any remaining mistakes are mine. Hope you like it, iheartbowie!
Neville looked up from locking the greenhouse door, surprised to see Head Girl Cordelia Brownleaf heading coming down the hill. “Yes, Miss Brownleaf?”
“Professor Granger asked to see you, in the Potions classroom. When you get a chance, of course.”
Neville nodded his thanks and picked up his satchel. Even though the path to the Potions classroom was out of his way, it was a familiar one. He found Hermione sitting at the desk at the head of the classroom, flipping through a stack of parchment. “I hope you aren’t going to ask me something about Draco’s lesson plans. Five years we’ve been together and I still have a hard time deciphering his handwriting.”
Hermione smiled brightly at Neville and laughed a little. “No, the lesson plans are actually legible.”
She held one up as an example and Neville recognized Pansy’s handwriting. She did a lot of transcription for Draco, mostly when Draco planned on sharing or submitting his research. There was a time that Neville was jealous of Pansy, of the time Draco spent with her and how well they knew one another, but that time was long past. Neville was certain of his place in Draco’s life.
“The notes Malfoy left are all very thorough and precise,” she continued. “He even lists which students are likely to act up or cause explosions in each class. No, the reason I was looking for you is that the Advanced Potions class is supposed to brew hallucinatory potions this week, and we need some Aegretudo deliciae, but I can’t find it in the regular storeroom.”
Neville never understood why the Potions curriculum included teaching the students how to make potions that were commonly abused. Using ingredients like Aegretudo deliciae was especially dangerous, because there was a fine balance between having a good experience and going completely insane.
“I know he has some; I just harvested a batch last week. Aegretudo is considered a Class II Agent by the Ministry, though, so maybe he’s keeping it stored separately. You and I both know how easy it actually is for students to get into the potions store room.”
The problem was, Neville had no idea where Draco would be keeping it. He didn’t have a reserve location in the Potions classroom – Merlin knew he had complained enough about that – but maybe somewhere in his office, or even in his study in their quarters?
Neville let himself into Draco’s office and pulled the inventory ledger out of the top desk drawer. Maybe there was a clue in there. He flipped to the last entry, the items he had delivered the week before. The Aegretudo deliciae wasn’t there. Huh. He flipped back a few pages, thinking maybe he’d gotten the date wrong, but he didn’t see mention of the plant at all. He also didn’t see a few of the other plants he knew he’d given to Draco in the past several weeks.
“Is something wrong?” Hermione asked.
“No, not at all,” Neville answered, hastily shoving the ledger into his robes. “He’s got the aegretudo stored somewhere other than the regular storeroom, but I don’t know where, and there’s no notes or anything here to clue me in. I’ll get you some more. How much do you need?”
“Well, it’s just the Seventh Years Advanced Potions class, so I’d need enough for thirteen students.”
“Do you want to come down to the greenhouse with me to get it or do you want me to bring it to you?”
“I’ll walk with you, if you don’t mind. We never get much chance to talk anymore.”
Neville would normally have pointed out that it wasn’t his fault Hermione had decided to leave Hogwarts to work at the Ministry, but he was a little distracted by the discrepancies in Draco’s log books. He knew he wasn’t good company, wasn’t really paying attention to what Hermione was saying, but she seemed quite content to ramble on about her job and her children and what she had been up to since he had last seen her at George Weasley’s New Year’s Eve Celebration.
“Did you know that the Death Eaters were working on a Cruciatus potion?”
That got Neville’s attention. “What?”
“Yeah, towards the end of The War. Voldemort’s followers were completely cracked, but some of them were still bloody brilliant. They were trying to create a potion with the same effects as the Cruciatus curse, extreme physical and mental pain, hallucinations, and eventually madness.”
“Why in the name of Merlin… I mean… Why?”
“A potion doesn’t require a caster to put forth and maintain a high level of magical energy, plus it would enable the Death Eaters to infect a large group of people in a small time by adding it to a water supply.”
“That’s seriously disturbing. They didn’t succeed, did they?”
“No, thankfully. Just looking at these plants reminded me because I remember looking over some of their notes and seeing these names -- Caligo sidus, Adustum minorum</i>.”
“Who was responsible?”
“No one took credit for it, but the lab was in the basement of the Parkinson manor.”
Neville did his best to pretend like he wasn’t bothered by this revelation, but Draco spent a lot of time at the Parkinson manor, especially now that it was just Pansy there. They had a lab there, and Neville couldn’t help but wonder if it was the same one. It felt like betrayal, to be thinking these things about Draco, but he couldn’t help it.
It only got worse that night when he sat down to compare his records with Draco’s. Most of it matched up, but the entries that were missing or incorrect were the important ones – nightshade, caligo sidus, Aegretudo deliciae, Adustum minorum. They were the ones that were potentially highly dangerous. They also happened to be the same ones that Hermione had listed earlier.
He tried to put it out of his mind, but he couldn’t stop thinking about it over the next few days. Why would Draco be lying to him? And if he wasn’t using the plants in his classroom, what exactly was he doing with them?
Even though he normally didn’t have a problem sleeping alone – Draco disappeared once every few months to attend some lecture or conference or something else that had come up, and although Neville went with him when he could, he sometimes enjoyed the peace that came from being home alone – Neville suffered through a series of fitful nights.
He was dozing, albeit lightly, when he felt the mattress shift beneath someone’s weight and then a familiar body pressed up against his.
“Mmm, welcome home,” he mumbled, meaning you’re home early.
“Missed you,” Draco answered, meaning I got tired of dealing with other people and took an earlier train.
Neville settled more comfortably against Draco. He wanted to ask about the ledgers, wanted to ask about the lab at the Parkinson manor, wanted to apologize for the doubts he was having about Draco, but more than anything right now he wanted to enjoy the comfort of the man he loved lying beside him, all their secrets hidden in by the dark.
The next few days were tense around their quarters. Neville knew he wasn’t being fair, especially since Draco didn’t know that Neville knew he was going something wrong. Every time Neville brought up the ledgers, asking to see Draco’s copies to audit them and make sure everything matched up, Draco changed the subject. Every time Neville mentioned going with Draco to Pansy’s in the evening, Draco had some excuse why he shouldn’t go.
And it wasn’t like things had changed between them, but Neville still found himself looking for ulterior motives. The special fertilizer Draco had picked up at the conference was just because Neville kept him supplied in fresh potions ingredients. The night Draco had dinner delivered from Hogsmeade to the quarters was to get out of socializing with the other teachers in the Great Hall, allowing Draco to sneak off to Pansy’s that much earlier in the evening.
Neville reached his breaking point when he came back to their quarters early one afternoon – one of the Abbott twins had knocked over a large planter of Smoking Sousadoods and set off the sprinklers in the greenhouse – and found Pansy and Draco deep in conversation.
“I can’t tell what this measurement is for the caligo sidus,” Draco was saying. “What good are research notes if other people can’t read them?”
“You’re one to talk,” Pansy replied, laughing. “Not everyone has a best friend willing to take boring but legible notes for them.”
“Still, this would be a lot easier if I knew what the bloody hell these said.”
“Well, next time, I’ll be sure to ask the Death Eaters in my basement to write more clearly, okay?”
Neville’s sudden intake of breath was loud to his own ears, but apparently Draco and Pansy didn’t notice it over their own laughter. He stood in the hallway, dripping water on the floor and telling himself he wouldn’t cry over this, over Draco. He slipped back out the door and cast a quick drying charm over his robes. It wasn’t the hot shower he had been looking forward to, but it would do for now.
He wandered out onto the grounds, doing his best to avoid the students and the other professors alike. He wasn’t in the mood to face anyone right now. He ended up on the edge of the lake, skipping stones across the surface and swerving to avoid them when the Giant Squid threw them back at him. He didn’t know how much time passed, but it was dark when he headed back to the castle.
For all the time that he had spent thinking about it, he still had no idea what he was going to do.
Draco was curled up in a chair by the fireplace, an unopened book in his lap. He jumped up when Neville walked in. “There you are! I was getting worried!” He set the book aside and walked towards the table in the corner. “I saved you some dinner, but if you want something else…”
“Draco.” Neville waiting until Draco stopped what he was doing and turned around. He forced himself to make eye contact, drawing on every bit of Gryffindor strength he had. He wasn’t going to break down or back down. “I think we need to spend some time apart.”
“I was gone for four days just last week,” Draco said with a smile. “And isn’t there a herbology convention in London at the end of the month?”
Neville wasn’t smiling. “That’s not what I mean. I’m… I can’t stay here, with you. I don’t trust you and whatever secrets you’re keeping from me. And I’m not sure what to believe, but I need a little time to sort it out.”
Draco looked confused. “Nev, what are you talking about? What secrets?”
Neville took a not-so-steady breath before he replied. “The secret you and Pansy are sharing, whatever you’re working on in that Death Eater lab in her basement.”
Draco’s eyes widened, caught out in his lies. He didn’t even bother to defend himself, just shook his head at Neville and looked away. “Fine, whatever you want. You want some time alone, I can give you that. I’ll be in the Slytherin dorms if you need me.”
Neville didn’t watch as Draco walked out of the room, didn’t want to think about how quickly Draco had given in. And most of all didn’t want to deal with the fact that Draco didn’t deny it.
Neville looked up as Draco dropped a packet of papers onto his desk. “What?”
“Just because you’re mad at me, for whatever reason, that doesn’t change the fact that I love you. And our anniversary was last Thursday. Five years, Nev. Anyway, I had hoped to give you this then, but we still had a few trials left to run.” He pushed the folder closer to Neville. “I’ll just leave these. I want you to have this even if you’ve decided we’re over. I asked McGonagall for separate quarters; I’m going to go pack.”
Neville nodded shakily. He knew that if he opened his mouth, he was going to beg Draco to stay, dark wizard and betrayer and liar or not. He pretended to go back to his marking but watched surreptitiously as Draco walked out of the room.
He told himself he wasn’t going to look, that he didn’t care what it was that Draco had brought him. The folder sat on the corner of his desk, silently taunting him. When he finished, he pushed his gradebook back and accidentally knocked the folder to the floor. With a sigh, he leaned down to scoop the scattered papers back into some semblance of order. The top paper was in a handwriting that he didn’t recognize, but he did recognize the word aegretudo. He nearly dropped the papers again when he realized he was looking at a copy of the Death Eaters’ research for the Cruciatus potion. It made his stomach turn; the very idea that Draco would even think to give him something like this. It made no sense. Neville flipped through the stacks of parchment until he found Draco’s messy scrawl interspersed with Pansy’s neat translations. They had picked up research where the Death Eaters had left off, but… this was…
Neville didn’t stop to think as he ran out of the room. “Draco!”
Draco was in their bedroom, packing by hand, which was a sure sign he was wasting time and waiting on Neville, but that was okay. That meant he was still here to talk to. He was meticulously refolding on of one of his shirts when Neville came in.
“You did this for me?” Neville asked, crossing his arms over his chest.
“Well, not just for you,” Draco answered. “I mean, I’ll get fame and recognition for it.”
“You know what I mean! Does it work?”
“It looks hopeful. Obviously, there’s no guarantee, and it won’t work overnight, but yeah, I think it will.”
Neville could barely think of all the possibilities, of what this would mean to the people in the Janus Thickey Ward at St Mungo’s. Of his parents. And on top of all that, the fact that Draco had developed a potion to counteract the spell damage inflicted by the Cruciatus curse. His boyfriend was a genius and fantastic and possibly no longer his boyfriend but he still deserved an apology.
Neville crossed the room, coming to a stop a step away from Draco. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry I doubted you.”
Draco shook his head. “I’m sorry I didn’t explain it to you, but I wanted it to be a surprise. Next time you get a crazy idea in your head, though, come talk to me before you tell me it’s over. All right?”
Neville stepped back, remembering the past couple of days. “Why didn’t you explain the other night? You were ready to walk away from this, from us, to give up without a fight.”
Draco gave Neville a small, sad smile. “You thought I was one of them. You thought I was keeping secrets, working on something that would hurt you and everyone we know. I just… if that’s the way you feel about me, if you don’t love me enough to trust I would never do that, then I don’t know what to think.”
Neville reached for Draco’s hands, pulling the shirt from them and dropping it on the floor. “That’s why none of it made sense, because I do love you and I know you’d never do that. So to think that you were doing it... I don’t know, Draco. But please, don’t think it means I don’t love you, because I honestly do.”
Draco twined their fingers together, pulling Neville closer. “I love you, too.”
“Just so we’re clear,” Neville said, trying to keep a stern voice even though he wanted to break out in a smile because he had been oh so wrong, “no one is leaving and there are no more secrets between us. Got it?”
Draco nodded and leaned in to kiss him. “Got it.”