Title: Planting Asphodel
Fandom: Harry Potter
Disclaimer: They're not me. I just throw in the angst and mix. I don't get compensation or anything like that.
Summary: Neville's grandmother's health is growing steadily worse, and he goes to Harry for comfort in the middle of the night.
"Do you want some tea?" Harry asked, padding over to the kitchenette to make some for himself anyway. He threw a glance over his shoulder to see Neville nod, however, and filled the kettle to hold at least two cups' worth.
Shivering, Neville pulled the blanket, old and familiar, off a bench and wrapped it around himself before sitting down. He watched Harry move around, getting out cups and spoons and sugar. He waited quietly, jumping a bit at the loud cracks of thunder outside and the strange sounds of the large, empty house. "So... you really don't get scared living here alone?" he asked timidly, partly to make small talk and partly because he really wanted to know. Either way, it filled the silence.
Harry shook his head. "Sort of makes me feel closer to my Godfather, really. I don't have a lot to remember him by," Harry replied from across the kitchen. "I guess I just can't bring myself to sell it, so I might as well live here. It's the same with your gran's place, isn't it?"
Neville's head bobbed up and down weakly, and he rubbed a hand beneath his nose with a sniffle. "Don't want to talk about it," he whispered, looking down at the scrubbed wooden table.
"Course you do," Harry said, placing a full cup of tea in front of Neville along with the sugar bowl, as he sat down across from Neville at the table. "Why else would you be here in the middle of the night?" Harry pushed up the sleeves of his bathrobe and pajamas, feeling warmer after hovering over the stove and drinking a little tea.
"Just didn't know where else to go," Neville replied, mindlessly digging his spoon into the sugar bowl and shoveling out spoonful after spoonful into his tea. "I'm sorry to have disturbed you. You can go back to bed now if you need to."
Harry shook his head. "Tomorrow's the weekend. No work. Doesn't matter if I sleep in... and something tells me I'm of better use here than in bed right now." He watched Neville transfer what he counted as the tenth spoonful of sugar, then reached out and firmly took a hold of Neville's wrist. "I think that's enough sugar. Tell me what's bothering you, Neville?"
Neville froze, his arm held in place, and the rest of him following. "It... it's Gran," he said softly. Harry nodded, having guessed that much already. "She's getting worse and the healers say there's nothing they can do for her." He raised his head, looking into Harry's green eyes. "She's the only family I've got left. She raised me after my parents..." He choked on the words and pulled his arm away from Harry. He picked up the teacup and took a few gulps of the overly-sweetened tea to keep the lump in his throat down. He sniffled hard. "I guess I just thought that if anyone could understand, it'd be you."
reached across the table, putting the top back on the sugar bowl and then
reaching for Neville's hand again. He took it in his own, giving it a strong
squeeze. "I understand. And I'll do anything I can for you. Would you like me
to bring over meals? Or sit with her when you're working?" Neville was shaking
his head. "I can take the time off,
Neville shook his head some more. "You don't have to do that, Harry."
Harry narrowed his eyes but wore a smile. "What, are you going to stop me? If I show up at the cottage with a pot roast and a potted plant are you going to refuse admittance?"
Neville cracked a smile and took another sip of tea. It was too sweet, even for him. Harry pushed his own across the table for Neville to drink instead. "Where are you going to get a pot roast?" Neville asked, avoiding having to answer.
Harry shrugged. "Suppose I'll get one of Ron's mum's recipes. But that's hardly my point. If I can do something to help, don't hesitate to ask."
Neville sniffed and raised the back of his hand to his face, pausing for a moment or two. Then he snapped forward "EhKshhhh! Kuhshhhh!" He rubbed his hand against his nose, then shook it. "Damn my luck. I think I'm coming down sick, too." He took a few more gulps of the tea, finishing it off. He looked down at the table wearily, swaying a little in his seat, his hand still held in Harry's.
"Do you want to go to bed, or are you planning on sitting here the rest of the night feeling miserable?" Harry asked, expecting at least another smile out of Neville.
Instead, Neville looked up. "Could I just go feel miserable in bed for a while?" He sniffed hard, then rubbed the back of his hand against his nose again. "heh-ehhKIHShhh! Haven't got a hanky on you, have you?"
Harry smiled and shook his head, standing. He pulled Neville up as well and they climbed the stairs to the second floor and the bedroom Harry used as his own. As Harry retrieved a handkerchief and a pair of pajamas for Neville from the dresser, Neville pulled off the blanket and the rest of his clothes.
Soon they were both beneath the covers of Harry's bed, with Neville's head on Harry's chest and Harry's fingers mixed in with Neville's dirty blond hair as he massaged the young man's head. Neville's hand tightened around the handkerchief seconds before each sneeze. "hegKshhh! ehhhChushhhh! Kshhh!" Harry stroked his hair, and gave the top of his head a kiss. The sniffling Neville snuggled closer, closing his eyes.
Harry knew Neville did not need a lecture about how everyone dies, and sometimes it was for no reason, our out of anyone's control. He did not need reassurances about how much his gran really did respect him and that she would be missed. He did not need to be told that change happened, and he would have to confront it and adapt. All he needed were warm arms to hold him and someone he could be miserable in front of.
"Do you think you'll be able to fall asleep?" Harry asked. "Can I get you some warm milk or another pillow or blanket?"
Neville sniffled. "I think I can fall asleep all right. I've got everything I need right now." He rubbed his cheek against Harry's flannel pajamas. "How about you?"
Harry chuckled lightly, not wanting to disturb Neville too much by shaking with laughter. "Oh, I'm all right, Neville. I'm just bloody tired."
Neville lifted his head and reached up, sliding Harry's glasses off his face with care, and setting them aside on the nightstand. While there, he flipped off the lamp, the bedroom falling into almost complete darkness. "Goodnight, Harry." He kissed Harry's cheek softly, pulling away prematurely to cough.
With a nod, Neville put his head back down and draped an arm around Harry's waist in a soft hug. Harry wrapped his arm around Neville's shoulders with a squeeze. He knew Neville would need to leave early in the morning to relieve the night nurse who was helping out at the cottage. Neville devoted so much of his time to taking care of his grandmother now that Harry barely saw him at all any more. Thus the few hours of sleep they shared together were precious. Yet, they were both rather sleepy.
The only sound that filled the dark room was that of the rain outside. Most of the wind struck the other sides of the house, and Harry's bedroom had no window. But they could still hear the rain splatter against the wall as though it were sending them to sleep by making them remember they were warm and dry away from it now.
"Harry?" Neville piped up, disturbing the near silence.
"Mmm?" He had been halfway to sleep, but pulled himself back out of it.
"What kind of a plant?"
Harry's brow furrowed. "Sorry?" He was either too tired to follow, or simply completely confused.
Neville rubbed the handkerchief at his nose as he lifted his head, looking up at Harry. "You said you'd... oh, hold on." His hand tightened around the handkerchief again. "heh... ehhKShhhh! KChhh! Kehshhhh!" He paused a moment, his hand still tight, his breathing erratic. "heh-KIHShhhh!" He sniffled and rubbed at his nose, taking a few seconds to remember what he'd been saying. "You said something about bringing a potted plant."
Harry chuckled again. "You're right, I did." He thought for a moment, then said softly, "How about asphodel? Beautiful white blossoms, tall and yet kind."
Neville squeezed him around the middle tightly in reaction. "Asphodel..." he said softly. "That's perfect. You're perfect, Harry." Though the root was used in many powerful potions like the Drought of Living Death, the flower was one traditionally found planted around tombs as they were considered the food of the dead in the afterlife. A slightly depressing, but also very comforting and inspiring sort of choice. And it was indeed tall and beautiful.
"Hardly perfect," Harry said with another chuckle. "But I do what I can."
"hehh... ehhhKShhhh! ehhKuhshhh!"
Harry waited for Neville to blow his nose, then settle back down. "Now get some sleep or your cold will never get better." Neville nodded in agreement and was quiet again as he fell to sleep, with Harry stroking his head tenderly. Harry stayed awake as long as he could. He was strongly considering taking off the next week, or month even. He could lock up Number 12 and sleep over at Neville's every night to keep him company and look after his grandmother when Neville needed time in his garden. He could cook, or try to at least, and run errands. It didn't matter that Neville refused to ask him to do it. He knew Neville wouldn't refuse and be grateful deep down, and that was what was important.
Neville stirred and snorted in his sleep, rubbing the side of his face further into Harry's chest. Harry checked to be sure he wasn't running a fever, then tucked the covers around them both more securely.
Besides, he wanted Neville to stay at the cottage, not spend half the night going to and from Harry's bed. He wanted Neville to spend as much time with his grandmother as he could, while he still could. And he wanted Neville to be nearby when it happened finally. And when it did, Harry knew he would be out in the dirt planting the asphodel right beside Neville.