Three days passed, and nothing he did made him feel any better. He kept his eyes turned down and tried to keep his mind attuned to his lessons. He studied on his bed away from the common room and the mocking glances and kept his distance from anyone that could get him into further trouble. He knew that it was self-inflicted isolation, but he hadn’t felt as lonely since before starting Hogwarts sitting in his room at home, wishing for friends and missing his parents.
He sighed again as he tried to concentrate on his book. Tuesday had been an utterly abysmal day as had Monday and Sunday. Still, today felt more so as Ginny had had her first match against Hufflepuff. He had watched from his window, yearning to be out there and be a part of it. He wasn’t sure who had won in the end but wasn’t sure it mattered. If Gryffindor won, he’d be gutted to have missed it, if they lost, he’d only blame himself for missing it.
He tore his eyes from the window where they’d wandered against his will. The sky was starting to darken, and he thought it might be safe to venture out. Most people would be in the great hall eating. He might even be able to get into the greenhouses to get some coursework done. He closed his book and grabbed his jacket and bag before slipping out of the dorm.
He kept his head down as he rushed through the Common room, not waiting to see who was there. He didn’t hear any commotion as he managed to make it into the next stairwell. He let go of the breath he was holding and continued to the greenhouses. The corridors were virtually deserted as he rushed to the nearest exit.
Once outside in the cooling air, he breathed another sigh of relief. Since that incident at the weekend, the stone walls seemed to bend in towards him, pressing down from all sides. He couldn’t bear it. He could hear them in class, talking about it and whispering as they glanced his way.
He closed his eyes and shook his head. He needed to relax. He knew that he was probably blowing everything out of context, especially after last year under the Carrows. But something about the whole situation seemed to drain him, pulling his mind into dark and deep places that seemed almost impossible to climb out of.
He followed the castle walls at a slower pace now as the chances of bumping into anyone had dropped to virtually nothing. He let his hands trail against the stone and lichen as he let his feet lead the way. He looked up and knew that the night was going to be a beautiful one, perfect for the astrology students. He could see Orion’s belt glittering above him as the warm, orange light disappeared behind the mountains. The moon rose like a silvery pearl against the darkening sky as he pulled out his wand and whispered Lumos, causing the end to erupt into light.
Before long he was in the first of the greenhouses. He could smell the rich, moist air as he took a deep breath. He let the smell of life and nature fill his lungs and instantly felt better. He flicked his wand and the lanterns within awoken, filling the space in amber light. He dropped his bag and removed his jacket before pulling out his books to work.
The rose of Jericho sat looking as shrivelled and knarled as it had earlier that afternoon regardless of the tests he had run on the plant. It was known to the muggles by the same name or as the resurrection plant, and it had been widely believed that the sap at its core could be used as an elixir for prolonged life. Neville leant over it for a moment before smiling. Only around plants did he feel genuinely at ease. The plants asked nothing, demanded nothing and expected nothing. There was a certain sense of relief in that simple relationship.
He opened his book when he heard a noise in the doorway. He jumped and pointed his wand, sending sparks at the intruder.
“For fuck’s sake, Longbottom!” Pansy swore as she pulled her hand away, narrowly avoiding the vast amount of sparks. As the sparks landed, the dry straw started to glow and flame.
“Shit!” Neville said with feeling as he flooded the floor with a thin layer of water. Breathing out when the embers sizzled into nothing.
“Does that happen every time you’re caught off guard?” Pansy asked as she pushed into the door, waving her hand around. Neville caught the motion and cringed.
“Are you hurt?” He asked as he avoided her eyes.
“Just a bit singed, I’ll be fine, I’m a big girl,” Pansy smirked as she looked at the plants.
“What are you doing here?” He asked, his heartbeat roaring in his ears.
“Isn’t it obvious?” She asked with a quirk of her eyebrow. “I followed you.” She smiled as she jumped up to sit on one of the tables.
“Why?” He asked, turning back to the plant. He could feel the table rock as she swung her legs. The motion distracted him as the leaves twitched and shivered.
“Why not?” She offered with a smile. “Maybe I just want to tease you? It’s not like anyone else has been able to this week so far.”
“Get it out of your system them, I’ve got work to do.”
“Can I call you by your name?” She asked curiously.
He looked up, her tone piquing his interest. He frowned as he looked at her, his eyes focusing on her elbow.
“You do, anyway.” He muttered sullenly before turning back.
“I meant your first name, I mean it’s a damn sight easier to say than Longbottom.” Neville felt a thrill rush through him as he tried to concentrate on the plant.
“I guess.” He shrugged, hoping to come across as calm and nonchalant, but feeling slightly giddy inside.
“Neville,” she said as if tasting it with her tongue. He glanced over and watched as she caught her bottom lip with her teeth as she pronounced the V. He watched as the plump pillow bounced back. He swallowed and looked away, and memories of his dream resurfaced. He closed his eyes as he tried to blot out the images. Not here, not now.
He’d be lying if he hadn’t had thoughts about being with her in the greenhouses. He took a deep breath. He needed to get her out of there, if only for his own sanity.
“So, are you going to get on with it or is the suspense part of the torture?” He asked
“Depends” She smirked again and shrugged.
“On what?” He asked, turning fully to her now.
“On whether you’re going to talk to me.”
“Talk to you?” he frowned again. “why? What is there to talk about?”
“Come on, Neville. I know you’re smarter than that.” He looked at her and waited for her to elaborate. She sighed and gave up before starting to talk again. “I want to talk about what happened on Saturday.”
“What about Saturday?”
“Don’t be such a stubborn Gryffindor! It drives me crazy. Just be normal, level-headed Neville, just for a second.”
“Normal Neville? How would you know what’s normal for me?” She dismissed his comment with a wave of her hand before sighing and shaking her head. She looked up and met his gaze. Her face was devoid of the playfulness now, and he ventured to guess that he could see concern instead.
The frown remained on his face as he stared into her eyes. He wanted to turn away from her, to hide from the honesty that stared back.
“Just talk to me! Please. Talk at me! Pretend I’m my namesake and chat with me like one of your plants. I won’t even chat back if that’s what you want. Just talk about it. Let it out. Do something except mope and wallow.” She sighed before looking down. “I know we’ve never been friends, and I,” she paused for a second, before pushing on. “I would like us to be friends.”
He felt like the world had turned topsy-turvy.
“What?” He couldn’t seem to form words to comprehend what was happening.
She sighed and chuckled to herself with a shake of her head.
“Hermione told me that you wouldn’t believe me.” She went to stand up
“Hermione? She knows?”
“Of course she knows. Our beds are right next to each other.” She looked down and pushed a strand of hair out of her face before glancing back. “After Saturday, we had a nice long conversation about everything. I think we’ve buried the hatchet.”
Neville nodded dumbly as he tried to connect everything. He watched dumbfounded as she stood looking up at him. She chewed at her lip as she played with the hem of her sleeve. “Hermione is worried about you, as are Weasley and Lovegood. They don’t want to upset you by facing you with it, but I know that you need to know.” She shrugged and turned around.
“Wait.” He almost shouted as his hand shot out. “Where are you going?”
“Well, if you’re not going to talk to me, I was going to go and stargaze before going back to the common room.”
“Stargaze? You don’t take astrology.” It was a statement, and he felt his cheeks flame as she looked at him, a shy smile coming to her lips.
“Very observant.” She replied coyly “I don’t, but I love the stars anyway.” She turned to go.
“If you would like to talk, I’ll be just outside.” Neville nodded as she left the greenhouse. He stood staring at the ground as he tried to put everything in order. He glanced back at the plant and shook his head. He wasn’t going to be able to concentrate, knowing that she was outside alone. He took a few calming breaths as he shook out his hands to dissipate the nervous energy that had electrified his blood. The idea of being alone with her sent a thrill up his spine and a hum in his bones that he couldn’t stop.