|Fic for shocolate: 'John Lennon and the soul of Yoko Ono.'
||[Nov. 23rd, 2006|01:27 pm]
half and half
shocolate requested something with Seamus/Neville, Seamus/Ron or Seamus/Ginny, without anything nasty and with anything nice. I did the best I could: there's Seamus/Neville, and Seamus/Ginny friendship, and a major supporting role played by Ron. Many apologies for the lateness, many salutes to kaalee for the extension, many hugs to florahart for the beta, to oconel for the handholding, and jingdono for the shamrock idea. This is not thermidor's Neville, yet I could not have written it without her. Title is in part inspired by parthenia14, and the Scissor Sister's song "Paul McCartney", mostly because in desperation I wondered if I could think up as random a title: I did, and once I had the title, the fic came.|
Summary: Supposedly, the group always breaks up for a reason.
In first year, Neville feels awkward. His jumpers (hand knitted by his grandmother) seem a size too big, which only go to emphasise the fact he hasn’t lost his puppy fat yet. They are serviceable, like all of his clothing (and so he feels he has no right to complain) and yet when Gran packs his trunk and sends him off with a dry kiss to his cheek that feels a little too studied and a little too ceremonial he realises he has nothing to say to her, nor she him. The Great Hall is packed and full; crowded to the brim with people, all so excited. Neville squeezes by them and tries not to touch – his family (ever so well meaning) decided it would be best if he worked by himself through most of childhood (keep the halfwit away from my children, said Great Uncle Algie, the afternoon when Neville dared talk to a cousin and got hung out the window for his trouble) so he has no idea how to cope with so many milling bodies.
Fortunately, the Prefects direct him, and Hagrid who is big and smiling and friendly – and perhaps a little scary because of all three (Neville is not used to such open emotion) – and the Hat tell him where to go.
He eases himself onto a bench, content to look around and keep to himself (don’t harm the children, he thinks, don’t touch don’t play don’t try), before there’s a tap at his shoulder. More than a tap, really, halfway between a yank and a squeeze, and Neville swerves to face it with a startled expression on his face. He half expects it to be a teacher (probably the stern faced lady who is his Head of House, all starched morals to go with his starched clothes) telling him quite firmly that there’s been a mistake, that clumsy slack-jawed half-wit wizards such as he are not allowed at august halls of education, and therefore, he has disappointed his family yet again.
Thankfully, it’s not. Instead, there’s another boy, his age, in clothes that also hang a little too large around his frame. He’s a complete contrast to Neville, short and spindly, and full of grace. His eyes (hazel and green, Neville thinks) focus directly on Neville, and his lips curve into a generous smile. “Hey,” he says, warmly, with a soft Irish brogue that adds a twang and a burr to all the vowels. “You’re the one who lost his toad, right?”
Neville blushes, and looks down – but when he looks up, the boy is still gazing into his eyes. The scrutiny is more definite than he’s ever experienced (more than from family members who look and then look away), but Neville feels oddly secure in that gaze. “Yes,” he replies. “Yes, I was. Sorry for all the confusion on the train.” Apology is second nature to him by now; forgiveness is happenstance, at best.
“Oh, ‘s alright,” the boy shrugs, like Neville did nothing wrong. Like he has nothing to be forgiven for. “You should have seen the fuss me rat caused in amongst the Ravenclaw girls.” He leans in, wink and a broader smile, and his hand on Neville’s shoulder (like a cage) makes Neville complicit (begging for agreement): “And I did that deliberately, just to see if they squealed.”
“Oh,” Neville says, and realises the boy isn’t too nice, although it’s probably not very polite of him to say so. His Grandmother would have words with him, of course, his Grandmother would reprimand him sternly (drag him by the earlobe until he cried), warn him of the consequences of his actions (how he’s failed his family, failed his parents, yet again) and send him off to consider how he can repent (in a small room with no supper, where photos of his parents watch over him like everything he cannot fix). But that is what would happen to Neville; and the boy is not him.
“I’m Seamus,” the boy says, and so Neville offers his hand, all adult like. After a brief, incredulous moment, Seamus takes it, and shakes it – they both have sweaty palms. “Me da’s a Muggle and me mam’s a witch,” he announces. “She didn’t tell him till after they were married, that was a shock!”
“I imagine it would!” Neville responds politely. Seamus offers him a smile, and then someone elbows him – another student has slid into the empty space next to him, and Seamus is busy chewing them out for the supposed affront to his mad Irish temper. Neville listens for a few moments, then his eyes drift around the room again. He overhears Seamus say something, and his attention snaps back to the boy sitting next to him. Neville’s always been a good listener (careful and quiet, he had to), so he stills himself and just overhears (the way he used to when his family discussed what to do with him behind closed doors). Seamus goes through his whole routine with the young black boy sitting on the other side of him (me da’s a Muggle and me mam’s a witch) before he winds up to the finish, and the black boy giggles. Neville hears (but does not watch – you never turn around, he knows, you never let them know you’re listening) Seamus exchange a few more words with his new friend, whose name is Dean, and then focuses on introducing himself to the rest of the table.
The words change here and there. From time to time there’s a variation in intonation or pause or phrasing, but it’s roughly the same up and down the table. Seamus reduces his family to a joke, a punch line, and everyone laughs.
Neville notices that Seamus never does.
Second year finds Neville teary-faced and runny-nosed, cuddled against a wall, huddled on one of the staircases. His books lie neatly besides him, quill and parchment tightly scrolled, so he will not mark them with his tears. His grandmother always taught him to be careful (of things, of others, of himself, in exactly that order) and so he is careful: he feels he has failed her enough (she looks at him and does not see her son.)
Seamus finds him bundled up on the way to Potions, and Neville never asks why Seamus himself is dawdling: the mere fact of their teacher should speak for itself. Seamus wraps surprisingly gentle arms around Neville’s waist, and gives him a tug.
“No,” Neville says softly. “I don’t want to go. Let him fail me, I don’t care. I’m not a lion, I’m not brave, I can’t do this for another three years.”
“Neville,” Seamus says, very even, very sensible, “you can’t give up. Think of what your family will say. You’re always mentioning your Gran.”
“My family’s disappointed in me already,” Neville says, and knows he sounds glum.
“I’m not,” Seamus shrugs, after a pause. “But I will be if you don’t get going, and I end up late for no reason.”
Neville stares at the steps in front of him for a second. “Alright,” he admits, and lets Seamus help him up, hand in hand. “Seamus,” he asks, as he gathers his belongings under a steady arm, “why do you think Professor Snape’s so nasty?”
Seamus lets go of Neville’s fingers as they clatter down the steps; Neville slow and certain, Seamus all energy and movement, as if he can tug Neville along quicker thanks to his own momentum. “Think about it,” he grins back, and carefully steps heel-to-toe along one of the joins in the old stone floor. “How would you feel if you woke up to that face in the mirror every morning?”
Neville laughs, and Seamus darts away, eager and grinning still. When they tumble into class, breathing hard, Professor Snape’s cold eyes sweep over them, and Neville flails for a moment before Seamus steps forward and takes the blame ever so contritely for holding the two of them up.
There goes a (proper) lion, Neville thinks, and watches the way he manages to apologise without surrender.
By the time third year rolls around, Neville has settled in (as much as Neville can settle in.) He has become used to the pranks, the jokes, the way their (dysfunctional) group of Gryffindors has welcomed him inside. There is no mockery for the way Snape finds him an easy target; there is no jibe for his silly protestation at the end of first year. Indeed, he manages to introduce himself with a certain small pride at the Welcoming Feast that year, and is rewarded with grins and claps-on-the-back from Harry, Dean, and Ron. He watches as Seamus sits apart, holds himself back, and makes sure to manage his own introduction. It’s the same old patter, the same old routine, and Seamus gets chuckles from the new first years in all the usual places.
It feels routine (old). It feels comfortable (glib). It feels like the jumpers his Grandmother gives (loose and familiar in all the wrong places, and all the more sorry for it.) Neville trundles down the corridor once the Feast is over, inexorable, and lets the old, cold stone track his path behind Seamus.
“Why do you do it?” he calls out ahead of him when he knows they’re together (alone).
Seamus looks back; he is always looking back. Always the one to jump ahead, always the one to accept the dare, always the one to get in trouble, and Neville is always the one trailing behind. “Do what?” he asks, and does his usual trick of trying to keep his feet carefully treading on the joints in the stone floor, arms out like he’s on a high wire.
Neville thinks he’s seen enough of Seamus’ usual tricks for one day. “Why do you use your family as a joke?” he wonders, and the words echo in the empty corridor, swallowed soon by stone and the portraits that surround them (who watch and hear and do not sleep). “Why do you turn yourself into a punchline? I’ve never heard you talk about them except at Feasts.”
Seamus’ lie is casual, and obvious, and cruel because of it. “Yeah, well, maybe I talk to Dean,” he says, offhand, and reels around on the toe of a foot. Whatever grace he had is gone now, the illusion of the high wire forgot. He’s just a boy, slouching, hands in pockets, refusing to meet Neville’s gaze.
“I know you don’t,” Neville tells him, voice sounding serious (thin and weak and whiny) in the space of the castle. “I’ve asked Dean.”
“Who asked you to ask Dean?” Seamus glares, and he is very good at sudden, shocking flare-ups of anger. “Who the hell asked Dean to get involved, or for you to open your fat mouth? Keep your nose out of my business and in your own damn life, or answer me this: why do some of the pureblood families – for fuck’s sake, even some of the portraits! – look at you like they’ve seen a ghost?”
Neville looks at him, and does not answer.
“Thought so,” Seamus spits, turns on his heel and storms away; his anger demands too much of Neville to be so easily assuaged, and Neville does not think he has that much of himself left.
Fourth year finds Neville curled up with a book in a comfortable chair in front of the Gryiffindor hearth. It’s a familiar place for him: Harry is usually off with Ron and Hermione, trying to prepare for the next task; Seamus is hanging about with Dean, probably up to a very slack, lazy type of no good, and Lavender and Parvati are probably off somewhere giggling about whatever girls seem to giggle about the moment anyone looks at them. Girls confuse Neville, a little (but then so does everyone else.)
The tome rests in his lap, leather bound and old, inexpressibly valuable, and yet commended to him (trusted to his care) for him to read. Painstakingly detailed illustrations line each page, along with copious notes on each and every specimen. A treasure trove of information, in greater depth than anything Professor Sprout’s given him, and all because Professor Moody looked out for (took pity on) one talented young Gryffindor (one scared and lonely child.)
It’s best to not think of the circumstances as to the why and the how anyone might look out for him, so rather than examine the evidence a little too closely, Neville shuts the thoughts away before they have the chance to form, locks them behind parentheses and brackets so the mind cannot acknowledge them. That way, he doesn’t have to think about all the things he cannot (will not) do, and all the reasons why he cannot (will not) do them. If he doesn’t dwell on the impossibility of his own success, his failure, though assured, is more of a reassurance to him.
“C’mon,” says Seamus, and suddenly he’s there, all squeezing Neville’s shoulder and muttering impatiently in Neville’s ear. Seamus has an instinct to catch people at exactly the wrong time, and not only does he seem unaware of it, but for Seamus, now is the only time available: everything else makes him pout.
“…C’mon where?” Neville protests, even though that hand has drifted down to his upper arm, curled around a (nonexistent) bicep and started work on yanking him out of his comfortable chair.
“Outside,” Seamus looks at him like he’s mad and should have figured it all out by himself. Neville doesn’t feel mad, not in either sense of the word, but he is confused.
“Outside?” Neville enquires, and reality seems a very tenuous thing right now. Still, he can’t (won’t) complain – Seamus is a well meaning fellow, after all. “But I’ve got all this reading to do,” he says, helpless, and gestures at the (valuable) book (all for him) that lies across his lap.
Seamus peers over at the book, glancing across illustration and text, and Neville is reminded of the fact that Seamus can’t read upside down. “Yeah,” he says absently, and nibbles on his lower lip. “I’ve decided to help you with your flying.”
If anything, Neville is grateful his eyes don’t bug out a little more at the remark. He knows he’s not good at flying (but then he’s not good at anything), but Seamus hasn’t exactly made the team either. Still, Seamus seems to think he can do anything if he just puts his mind to it, and Neville’s willing to give him the benefit of the doubt – maybe he can turn Neville into a decent flier, and other impossible things, all before dinner. “T-thankyou,” he manages, and then Seamus interrupts him with a (casual) insult.
“It’s not like you need to read anymore, anyway,” he says, blundering in where even Gryffindors fear to tread. “You’re amazing at Herbology, Neville, everyone knows it.” Seamus shrugs, and then he yanks at Neville’s arm again. “So we’re goin’, right?”
It seems they are: Neville all but stumbles (tumbles) out of the chair. He has time for one last, longing glance at the book as they trundle out the Gryffindor commons, even though the longing is offset by the warm glow of pride in his heart. Seamus holds onto his hand all the way down the corridor, and his hand is strong, and warm, and he keeps his eyes on the path ahead, never looking back, never doubting. They can’t use the Pitch, thanks to the Tournament preparations, but Neville has no doubt Seamus will find them somewhere, somehow: the sky is theirs for the taking.
‘Sides,” Seamus shrugs, when they’re halfway there, “since when will you need to know about Gillyweed?”
Fifth year, Seamus is sulking. Mind, Harry’s willing to yell at anyone, Ron and Hermione are acting weirder than normal, and Ginny’s dating Michael Corner so it probably makes sense that Seamus has decided to have an off year like everyone else. More to the point, Seamus is sulking in the library, which is probably a way of using Madam Pince to keep everyone else off his back. Neville knows that Seamus likes reading; Neville knows that Seamus hates to have to read. Like life, he only wants from it what he is willing to take, and not a jot more.
When Neville finds him half-slumped over a table up the back of the library, he’s busy jotting something down onto a piece of parchment and holds up a finger for silence as Neville opens his mouth to speak. There’s something so authoritative, so reverential, so professorial at this gesture coming from Seamus that he can’t quite help but giggle, and note taking now done, Seamus closes the book gently, and then he glares not gently at all, before he lowers his eyes back to the books, and if Neville chooses not to see it as a dismissal, well, then, it’s not.
“Busy reading then?” Neville enquires, not exactly innocently. Seamus is surrounded by open tomes, unrolled scrolls, and notes, none of which seem finished.
“Is this about Harry?” Seamus grumbles, when he decides to raise his eyes to meet Neville’s.
“No,” Neville says, bewildered. “It’s got nothing about Harry.” He knows Harry and Seamus had an argument at the start of the year; there are probably small Abyssinian villages that know this; but he’s unsure as to how this applies right now. Still, Seamus has always been a little odd, even for a Gryffindor. Proud, certainly, but he wears his pride like a shroud, and lets it smother him.
“You shouldn’t be talkin’ to me, Neville,” Seamus tells him, eyes glinting with a humour Neville can’t understand.
“Shouldn’t I?” Neville wonders rather than enquires, and knows he sounds perplexed (confused).
“Nah.” Seamus is all grins now, and his glee just seems to increase. “When I manage to finagle you away from the group, they’ll just have me to blame. Although,” he considers, pressing his lips together in a brief pout that Neville tries not to notice, “at least they have someone to blame, and won’t go chasing after you.”
“Why would people want to chase after me?” Neville goes from being perplexed to down right bewildered.
“Cause it’s the group!” Seamus bursts out of the chair, somehow with his voice rather than his body. “People always want the group to get back together.”
“And they’ll blame you for breaking up this group,” Neville clarifies, in the hope that Seamus will sound more sane after a concentrated dose.
“Yeah!” Again, Seamus seems to believe that his truths are self-evident, and lo, he should think so: they are his truths, after all. “I’m sure you all had your individual disputes and dynamics: I mean, you’re comin’ to me for company, so clearly you’re not just in Harry’s back pocket. Even so, they wouldn’t give you – they wouldn’t allow themselves to consider the possibility that you actually like me. No. I have to be plannin’. I have to be schemin’.”
“…And you have to be blamed?”
“Exactly!” Seamus beams at him like he’s declared that the sky is blue. “You always need to blame someone; the group cannot be allowed to break up on its own accord.”
“There always has to be someone who wants to break up the group?” Neville tries, precariously, every word a step deeper into Seamus-territory.
“There always has to be someone who wants to break up the group!” Seamus repeats, giddy, and slaps the table with the palm of his hand. His jubilation turns to a look of horror in a second, and then he keens, before exclaiming: “But that makes me Yoko Ono! Motherfucker!”
“Yoko Ono?” Neville wonders if that’s a Muggle type of pet or plant.
“Yeah,” Seamus murmurs, drawing back into his own reverie, but that’s the only explanation he gives Neville, although his subvocalisations do hint at all the things Neville doesn’t know. “The analogy works, actually, when you think about it,” he mutters under his breath, half to Neville, half to himself, and half to any passing spirit: and yes, Neville realises that makes one-and-a-half but the situation went west of sanity the moment Seamus slapped the desk. “I mean, you’re John, cause hey, sensitive and artistic and all that stuff.”
“I can’t be artistic and sensitive,” Neville declares in surprise, despite having no idea what he’s talking about. “I’m round.”
Seamus stares at him for a moment. “Round doesn’t preclude anything else, Neville,” he states, very firmly. “Round does not equal artistic hack or brazen fuckwit. In fact, the only thing that round equals is cuddly.”
“Cuddly. Means you’re good to cuddle.”
“Oh.” Neville falls to thinking and barely hears Seamus continue.
“Now, if you’re John, and I’m Yoko, then Dean’s got to be George cause he’s the most likely to end up in an ashram high on LSD, Ron’s Ringo, cause, well, he’s Ringo, and Harry has to be Paul cause I hate his miserable guts!” The latter was said quite pleasantly, indeed, upbeat, and Seamus ended up a smile. “I mean, Neville, you have soul, you have poetry, you have poetry in your soul. It’s not ‘june with spoon’ or some shit you come up with, Lord me no.”
“…Who’s Yoko Ono?” Neville asks again.
Seamus slaps the table, again. This time a few faces begin to peek round the stacks. Fortunately, Madam Pince in nowhere in sight. “Yoko? Why – She is the woman – the very woman – John, Paul, George and Ringo!”
“…Those aren’t sentences, Seamus,” Neville tells him, and feels a little weary at stating the obvious.
“I know the Beatles, I’m cool.”
“And I wish I was as cool as you,” Neville grumbles in return, mystified, and wishes he was immature enough to stick his tongue out without having to deal with the guilt.
“She’s hated,” Seamus puts it simply. “Like I am,” he continues, and plays the martyr. “She’s blamed for so many things she did and didn’t do no-one’s sure where to draw the line anymore. What she hates, who she hates, and what hatred she inspired is the stuff of gossip and legend.” His eyebrows furrow together, and for a moment Neville is struck by the fact Seamus has really nice eyebrows –insomuch as eyebrows can be nice, anyway. “It’s like – it’s like having people compare me to Bellatrix Lestrange, you know?”
Neville’s hand falls on Seamus’ wrist before they know it, and he’s squeezing hard enough that Seamus glances down, perplexed. “You’re not,” he growls, and Seamus blinks. “You’re not like her.”
“…Alright, it was just a comparison, lay off the theatrics, will you?” Seamus retorts, and yanks back his wrist to rub it, glaring a little at Neville.
“It was a bad comparison,” Neville says (sullenly). His hands rest in his lap, useless (like him), and stares down at them, (cravenly). He had been going so well; he had been bolder this year, he had been braver; he had learned that round meant cuddly, and forgotten how to shame himself. Neville had lived his life outside the brackets, with all the thoughts he trained himself to not-think about inside compartments of the mind. Bellatrix threatens to undo everything, as she always did and always will, for now even as a fifth year, even in the Library, he is nothing more than a helpless baby, and Seamus cannot aid him.
“Are you okay?” Seamus asks him, hand reaching to touch Neville’s face, and Neville rocks back (stolid, staid, cowardly) in his chair so he can’t be touched. “You look all pale.”
“It was just a bad comparison,” Neville repeats, and then manages a sickly smile.
Seamus is still looking at him, and a thumb brushes over Neville’s cheek, so gentle, and so soft, and Neville can’t squirm away no matter how much he might like to. “…I grew up in Belfast,” he says softly, and never raises his voice, never gets surly, never gets tight. His words don’t make that much sense to Neville; he’s still not getting the references – but Seamus speaks soft and calm and pleading, as if Neville just has to listen and all will become clear. “There was a lot of hatred, and a lot of war, and a lot of people too close to both of them. You looked like you’d just come out of a war, Neville.”
A memory teeters on the edge; a woman more handsome than beautiful rears in his mind, and he shuts (locks) her away amongst dust and decay and other things demented and denied (including himself), all of which he cannot (will not) change. “No,” Neville tells Seamus, and fills his voice with a warm (fake) humour because of course it’s ridiculous, how can it not (be ridiculous)? “I just don’t like you being this Yoko Ono.”
Seamus wrinkles his nose, and the moment is gone; but there’s a wisdom in his eyes, a knowing that suggests that the moment is certainly not forgot. “True. I don’t think she even likes being her. But oh well, someone’s got to be hated. At least you’re John Lennon.” Now his lips purse. “…Even though that does mean you get killed by some deranged fan who makes the Creevey Brothers look sensible.”
“Did you just make a comparison between us and deranged fans?” This is Colin Creevey who pipes up, and it seems he’s been lurking behind a library shelf for a while now. “That’s a bad comparison.”
“Bzzt,” Seamus makes a noise that sounds like an angry bee, and Colin blinks. “Wrong answer, you plonk,” Seamus tells him, still grinning, virtually joyous, and Neville’s beginning to think he’s more than a little unhinged, with all the happy face. “It’s not a bad comparison. You are a bad excuse for a fan, you sycophantic little pervert, and if you give me any more grief, I’ll get me Uncle to kneecap you.” He says all of this in a completely casual, desultory manner, eyes staring right into Neville’s as he utters the words like Colin isn’t even worth threatening face to face.
“O-okay,” Colin stutters, and backpedals like nobody’s business.
“Sycophantic little perverts,” Seamus sighs, after he’s gone, and props his jaw up with a hand so that his head leans to the left. “Why can’t I get any sycophantic little perverts? I’ve got the accent! Have you not heard the accent?”
“Oh, I’ve heard the accent,” Neville says politely, and then gets up.
“Oh,” Seamus says, crestfallen, and looks for all the world like a young boy who’s favourite playmate has left him all alone with his blocks and no-one to play with, “you’re leaving?”
“Um,” Neville states (very quietly), because he doesn’t wish to offend. “I don’t know who Yoko Ono is.”
Seamus looks at him as if he’s a fool, and snorts. “Go ask Hermione,” he declares, and closes one of the books he wasn’t reading with an almighty clump.
Neville feels affronted (insulted), but not one to take things to heart (or he’d have no heart left), he blinks to himself and wanders away in search of Hermione, but not before he sees Dean walk past him and ask Seamus if he actually thinks he can keep this up.
“Yeah,” Seamus says flatly behind him. “Neville’s more man than you, false friend, and bugger off, cause I’m still in exile.”
Unfortunately, Hermione is not much help. She does know a lot – and what she doesn’t know, she promises to find out – but she says it all as if he’s expected to understand every word the first time around, and how it all fits together. Questions are asked with astonishment, and frustration, so he stops asking questions at all and just lets the words flow over him.
When Neville strides out of there, Hermione’s voice still ringing in his head, and a sheaf of timelines, diagrams and organisational notation bundled in his arms, Seamus is waiting. Seamus is always waiting, true, and always ready, but now he seems comparatively patient, one knee bent, foot resting against the castle wall behind him. He uses it to push himself off as Neville walks by, and slides an arm around Neville’s (round) waist like he’s always been there.
Neville glances over at him, mystified.
Seamus just grins.
“I spoke to Hermione,” Neville begins, a cautious opening gambit by any means.
“Oh, that one loves to lecture at length and at large,” Seamus murmurs, poetry in his voice, and Neville wonders if it’s possible to take alliteration a little too far: there’s only so many ‘l’s one can use before you look stupid, or something. “I expect she gave you the charts.”
“…Why did you make us married?” Neville asks, curiously.
“Ah, now, that’d be tellin’,” Seamus assures him, and removes his hand from around Neville’s waist to ruffle his hair, and Neville has never felt less round (fat) in his life.
“Who’s Cynthia then?” Neville wants to know, because if the analogy extends that far, then as John Lennon he must have an ex-wife hanging about somewhere, and it’s the sort of thing he figures he should get a say in.
Seamus taps the side of his nose with an index finger. “Professor Sprout,” he confides, and they both burst into laughter.
Sixth year, and Neville looks (watches) himself in the mirror: he's changed, he thinks, but only on the outside. He rubs sweaty palms on his school trousers, and for once doesn’t imagine leaving stains. He swallows, takes a deep breath, fixes the phrase in his mind. He’s shut himself up in the dorms all afternoon, pleading study and a bit of a headache, determined to guard against the glare of the bright day outside, and the even harsher beam of Seamus’s cheer. It’s a simple phrase – all of four words – but laden (heavy, like him) with implications.
“O-on your knees, Seamus,” he says to himself, for the umpteenth (seventeenth, actually) time. It sounds a little more confident than the thirteenth, and seems to roll of the tongue easier than the ninth. It’s not nearly as stuttery as the seventh, yet not half as low and husky as the fourth, eighth or eleventh, which he thought was a good touch. He wasn’t able to replicate it on the twelfth, however, which sounded definitely strangled, and thusly, he doesn’t seem to be making any progress. He needs it to sound good, because that’s what Seamus needs; and Neville knows how to take care of plants by giving them what they need, so the only hope is that Seamus isn’t too different in the long run.
“On your knees, Seamus,” he says again, watching the way his jaw drops in the mirror, and he’s so busy enunciating out the words that it does indeed lose the stammer: but it also loses any sense of naturalism that it might have had in the first place.
And there’s no growl.
He pauses. Gathers himself. Thinks about it. Starts again.
“On your- knees,“ another try, because he has to get it right, but then who should bound in through the dormitory door but the always-bouncing, frequently-confusing and typically unpredictable Seamus Finnigan. Neville sees him in the mirror; their eyes meet, and then he’s even more sweaty than before as he wheels around.
It’s not that he’s slow, but the world has gone slow now, and Neville’s the one stuck in the middle. Seamus stares at him, confusion writ large upon his face, and when he asks Neville who the hell he was talking dirty to, confusion turning to a huge grin, giving Neville a thumbs up and a wink, Neville is stupid enough to actually answer the question truthfully.
“You,” he says, and the world keeps getting even slower. He can almost see Seamus gape before he does, and Seamus’ mouth stretches, wide, a cavern, blackness leading down.
Seamus takes a step back, and an hour’s gone by. It has to have, because Neville can’t be feeling this excruciatingly awkward in all of a few seconds. “Me?” he splutters, incredulously, and it’s like Neville can see his indignation as it shifts and stretches his face, and know how badly this is going to turn out.
“Yes, you,” Neville affirms, nodding so much he wonders if his head might topple off and roll to rest at Seamus’ feet, but then everything feels scary and elated at the same time, and his blood is pumping and his hands are sweating, and his fingers feel full as he flexes them by his sides. “Dean told me,” he begins, his turn to splutter, and then Seamus’ face turns a dangerous red and he starts to sound his mouth off and the world speeds up.
Where the world once slowed, it goes at ten times normal pace now; everything is a blur, and he loses himself in it.
“Dean!?” Seamus shouts, and he can recognise that sound, even as his heart beats in his ears. “You asked Dean about what I – what I – you know what you asked about?” Seamus’ face is twisted, distorted by anger and fear.
Neville backs up, but he ends up flat against the mirror, cold, hard, unyielding, and fumbles with his fingers as he fumbles for excuses. “But I – I just wanted – to know what you want, I mean.” He’s not beautiful; he’s not like Seamus – he has to piece things together, and can use all the help he can get.
“And you didn’t have to guts to ask me,” Seamus growls, and Neville’s never seen him so enraged. His temper has cooled now; the words spit low and harsh from his mouth, and that just makes it worse. “You just expect to play me, like a flute, and I’ll give you all the sounds you ask for.” He takes a step forward, and although he’s still a fair few feet away, Neville all but jumps at the sneering cast to his lips. “Oh, Neville,” he simpers, mock-falsetto, and takes another step, and another. “Please, do me harder.” His voice returns to normal, and his gaze never wavers. “Is that what you wanted to hear?”
“I just wanted to make you happy.”
“I’m not a wind-up toy. Talking like that doesn’t guarantee anythin’, except that you’re not a natural, and I don’t care. I never wanted you to be anythin’ but what you are. Think of everything I’ve given you over the years.”
Seamus’ voice isn’t loud, but his emotions seem loud against Neville’s ears, and the words carry because of their soft insistence, not despite of it. Ron barges in, all motion and misunderstanding, sees what he sees, and gets the wrong idea.
“Neville, are you okay?” he asks, voice brash and concerned, close enough to punch Seamus if need be, but Seamus doesn’t even bother turning around. His eyes are all on Neville, and besides, Neville realises Seamus can see Ron in the mirror behind him.
“He’s fine,” Seamus cuts in. “Not your business, Ron.” His tone is brusque, and level; the verbal equivalent of swatting a fly that’s not worth any anger, and Ron flushes at the insult.
“Neville,” Ron says, and he’s looking at Neville, and so is Seamus, and he can feel their eyes as well as see them, “you know what he’s like. Remember fifth year?”
“Excuse me?” Seamus over-enunciates, as if his stretching mouth can symbolise the emotion that seems too big to fit the sound.
Neville speaks as well, at exactly the same time. “Ron, he doesn’t mean any harm-”
Seamus’ head snaps back to Neville at that, and his eyes are cold. “Don’t talk about me like I’m not in the room. Even if I was a pet, you’re certainly not good enough to hold me leash.”
“He’s weird, and um, Irish,” Ron shrugs. “He kept sticking suspicious looking things under your pillow.”
“He kept-“ Neville wants to know, but Seamus’ exclamation is enough to still the both of them; for someone so short he can fill a room with the presence of a man twice his size.
“What did you just say?” Seamus asks Ron, and Ron makes mouths at him.
“I just – you kept slipping this plant under his pillow, and I thought, I thought it was poisonous-”
“It was a shamrock,” Seamus tells him, flatly, and then he looks back at Neville, before his eyes fall to the ground. “I started shovin’ shamrocks under your pillow last year cause it’s Irish and I know you like plants and I couldn’t think of anythin’ else.” Even though he’s speaking to Neville, he’s not speaking at Neville; and Neville himself is all too familiar with the stumbling, halting flow of words that comes from Seamus’ mouth.
“I just didn’t know what he was up to, and there’s something a bit odd about a bloke shoving a plant under some other bloke’s pillow. ‘Sides, he yelled at Harry-“
“Oh, so have you,” Neville tells him off, and loudly, too. “Does that mean everything you do is a plot to hurt Harry, is it?” His hand reaches out to cup Seamus’ cheek to tip his face up before he knows it. Seamus stumbles the few steps forward necessary to lean into him, and Neville barely registers the glory of it, as he’s too busy looking at Ron be sheepishly embarrassed.
“I just – it’s Harry,” Ron says, shoulders slumped, with a shrug.
“I’m not Harry,” Neville tells him simply. “That’s not his pillow, and even if it was – I don’t know what I was going to say, but you don’t have to be so protective of Harry.”
“Yeah, I do,” Ron says quietly.
Seamus scowls. “Look, it’s clearly been a happy Gryffindor reunion, but you piss off and find your boyfriend now, and I’ll stay here and take care of mine.”
“Harry’s not my boyfriend!” Ron squeaks, and he brushes the fringe from his eyes. “…We just hang round each other a lot. It’s masculine.”
“Sure it is, Ringo,” Seamus snorts, but he’s more exasperated than mean, and Ron shuffles out, probably more confused than when he walked in.
Neville meets his eyes, and realises he’s still cupping Seamus’ cheek, but that doesn’t seem so bad. “You left me shamrocks?” he asks, so, so quiet because the moment is too sacred to spoil, and rubs his thumb across the curve of a cheekbone.
“Yeah,” Seamus blushes. “…And you’re me boyfriend now, so you don’t get to criticise me.” Doe-eyed and coy, Seamus turns his head so the thumb brushes over his lips, and Neville swears his heart skips a beat.
“Where is he?” Neville asks, voice sharp and unrecognisable to his own ears: seventh year, and the last chance to change, the last chance to grow, the last chance to get things right, and if he had time to consider it, his strength would bewilder him. The other Gryffindors all turn and look at him; all save Ginny who just continues staring out the common room window. The night outside is harsh; bucking rain, raging storms, lightning. Ginny turns a little from side to side, clearly anxious from the other side of the room, and her left hand scratches nervously at the fabric of her blouse, just above the sternum. Seamus isn't the only one who's hurt; Seamus isn't the only one Dean left behind, and he should have known Ginny would take this badly - but Seamus is the only person Neville has the strength to care about right now.
“Where is he?” Neville asks again, and he’s amazed at how strong he sounds. It’s their last year in more ways than one, and already it’s known that Dean Thomas will not be turning up for the term. No-one looks at him; not Ron, not Hermione, not Lavender or Parvati, who slump on the lounge next to each other and stare at the floor. There are other Gryffindors, younger Gryffindors, grouped about, sitting in twos or threes on the stairs or dotted about the fire. But for them, Dean was just a name, a face, a casual presence, and now he’ll definitely be nothing more.
“He’s out there,” Ginny tells him, voice stretched to near breaking as she nods shortly – so shortly, holding it all in – to the landscape outside. Even tucked safe and warm in Gryffindor Tower; they can hear the fury of the storm outside, and the rain batters the stain-glass window like a hail of bullets.
“I’ll go bring him back,” Neville tells them, and he sounds so level and so certain that even he is convinced as to what’ll happen, and everyone’s eyes flick to him in sympathy before he goes out the door.
The castle is dark and eerie as the storm thunders overhead; outside is worse – the charms Neville used to protect himself from the weather seem just to infuriate nature even more, which billows and blusters around him. Though he remains dry, the rain is like a wall, and the wind buffets around him, catching on each hair and loose end of cloth. Still, he puts one foot ahead of him, and one foot ahead of that – he wades through the night like he’s moving through molasses, and makes his way to a bare patch of lawn off to one side from the exit.
In the middle of the lawn, drenched to the bone, his robes and hair plastered to his skin, stands one boy who refuses to break and does not know how to bend. He’s shouting something, ineffable, unanswerable rage clear in the set of his spine, the potency of his curled fist as it cuts the air with a fury perhaps even greater than the storm which surrounds him. Neville can’t make out the words, but the lightning flashes and the thunder rumbles, and despite the fact he resembles a drowned rat at best, Seamus keeps on going.
“What are you doing?” Neville asks quietly after he ambles alongside. Seamus is quiet now, but still strained, and every fibre of his being cries out that his pain is not over. Neville watches a droplet of rain run down Seamus’ jaw before he pulls out his wand and shields him from a greater case of personal rising damp.
Seamus doesn’t react, not even when Neville dries him, but then he shrugs, rolling out his shoulders with an unmistakable weariness. “…I was havin’ a personal disagreement with God,” he mutters. “But it’s something that’s been goin’ on for a while, and He hasn’t answered me back yet.” Seamus pauses. “I think He’s scared I’ll make Him look stupid.”
“Come back inside,” Neville says, and Seamus turns around.
“Yeah,” he says dully, and shuffles along like an old man, letting Neville curl an arm around his shoulders, letting him guide him back to the castle, through the door, along the corridor, up the steps, and through the portrait hole. Everyone looks at them, looking hang-dog and lost. It’s the type of expression that makes Neville think that someone’s just died, and someone has.
“I’m not dead,” Seamus tells them, growl in his voice, and he’s angry with them, as he scowls around the room. “Not yet, and neither are any of you, so stop looking like you’re just waitin’ for the next funeral, or that’s all there will be.”
Neville watches as they glance at each other, and stiffen at first. But the stiffness works its way out, and they shrug. The glances continue. A few of them smile; Ginny crosses from the window and enfolds Seamus in a hug, which after a pause, Seamus returns. “He always said you had a smart mouth,” Ginny teases, and Seamus taps her on the nose with a wide grin.
“Smart in all senses of the word, thanks.”
The mood is lightening; it’s gone from funereal to something stronger, something more cohesive. It’s no longer a dirge but a wake, and it’s all because of the boy besides him.
“Harry’ll win,” Ginny tells them both. She needs to say it, Neville thinks; and more: she needs to believe it, to make all the losses worthwhile with one victory, so that each and every sacrifice has not been in vain. “You just wait till he gets back.”
“He better, or I’ll kick his arse,” Seamus says, and shrugs.
By the time they shuffle up the stairs together, Ginny’s eyes are shining with an odd kind of pride, and her faith is unwavering. Seamus rests on the edge of Neville’s bed, back bent like he’s given his all and there’s nothing left, and he doesn’t protest when Neville slips off newly-dry shoes and socks and starts to undress him.
“I turn it into a joke so no-one else has to,” Seamus whispers, and Neville can barely hear it. “Me Mam was a witch, Dad was a Muggle. He tried to teach us Muggle things as a kid; first thing I ever remember hearin’ is Sgt. Pepper’s for Christ’s sake – and Mam, well, Mam wanted us to be good wizards, because she understood that. So they fought a lot, and they cried a lot, and he worked a lot, and in the end he couldn’t even mention the Beatles, let alone anything else. And so he left. I don’t have any more stories to tell about me family because there’s nothing else to tell.”
Neville’s hands stop for a moment, and then he pulls Seamus’ jumper over his head, tousling his hair, and undoes collar and tie to reveal smooth, creamy skin. “He was too Muggle,” Seamus continues, “and so no memory can be allowed to remain, or Mam’ll have to admit she still misses him. No memory, no records, no records, no more Beatles.”
It’s easy to undress him, to slip warm hands under the collar of his shirt and slide it down his shoulders. They’ve never gone this far, not before, and Neville begins to understand why. The shirt gets neatly folded over the bedsheets, and the trousers as well. “You don’t listen to them when you visit him?”
“Sometimes,” Seamus shrugs. “Sometimes it just makes the both of us sad.” He pauses, and then raises lonely eyes to meet Neville’s, as Neville pulls back the sheets and gently pushes him back onto the mattress. “Because it’s supposed to fix everything, you know. You’re supposed to be in love and that’s it, problems solved. But I watched them, and I saw how it didn’t. How can I ever tell anyone about that? How can anyone bear to hear that?”
“Are you your father?” Neville asks, deceptively quiet as he undresses himself.
“No,” says Seamus.
“Are you your mother?” Neville asks, as he curls into bed behind him, and Seamus snorts at the question.
“Then you’re not them, and we’re not them, so unless you turn us into them, we won’t be.”
There’s a pause, and Seamus turns to face him under the sheets. “…You know,” he reflects, “I did break up the group.”
“The group broke itself up,” Neville tells him. “Things happen.”
Seamus lies back on the bed, arms raised behind his head, and makes a non-committal noise in response. “Maybe if I’d been there more. Maybe if I’d been there more for Dean…” It’s a useless train of thought, the kind Neville is used to chasing down. Thing is, Neville is willing to admit it.
“Stop that. If it wasn’t your fault, worrying won’t change it, and if it was your fault, worrying still won’t change it,” Neville reminds him, voice stern and firm, now that he's found his own kind of strength. He leans over to loom at Seamus, best as he can when he’s curled up alongside in bed. Seamus colours, embarrassed for a moment, but that fades, and he surrenders as Neville runs his fingers up Seamus’ sides. “I once said I thought you’d be beautiful,” Neville whispers against skin, fingers drifting over the curve of sinew, the paths marked by time and fate and life. “I was right.”
“Keep this up and they’ll write ballads about us,” Seamus muses, voice strong and dry and brave and alive, and Neville wants to weep for joy at the resilience of it.
“You didn’t break up the group, anyway,” Neville tells him. "I chose to be with you."
“No?” There’s a smile in Seamus’ voice. “Maybe I wanted to break it up. Maybe I've been playin' you all along. Maybe I am the man with the cunning plan, and try sayin' that ten times fast.”
“Mhmm.” Seamus’ eyes are bright. “Plus you know, you’re too good to hang about with Harry. You need to soar, Neville. You need to fly. Possibly you need to get a white piano, but I’m not judgin’.”
Neville laughs because Seamus is even more romantic than he is. “If I get killed by a Creevey, I’m blaming you.”
Seamus groans, and hits him gently with a pillow. In the morning Neville knows he’ll tell Seamus all the things that lie inside the pauses he keeps, and it’ll be (just like) starting over.