the night's on fire~ (pretty_panther) wrote in hh_sugarquill,
the night's on fire~
pretty_panther
hh_sugarquill

Fic: No ChallengeL Mutual Understanding.

Title: Mutual Understanding |ao3
Characters: Neville Longbottom, Frank & Alice Longbottom, Narcissa Malfoy
Word Count: 2,098
Rating: PG-13
Summary: The war is over but Neville does not want to visit his parents. He doesn't know how to explain. Then his Grandmother kicks him and forces him to act where he realises the new volunteer watching his parents is Narcissa Malfoy.
Disclaimer: I own nothing.

Mutual Understanding


His parents have now lived through two wars without even knowing it. That hurts Neville and it hurts a whole lot. He graduates on principle really. He has a sheet that says he has qualifications of some sort but it doesn't mean much to many. He can't go back though, no, he will never go back. It doesn't matter that there are different Professors or that the corridors have been fixed. Neville remembers friends being pulled into classrooms for detention screaming and pleading.

It takes him months to go to the hospital and he is ashamed of it. He tells himself it is because people know he killed the snake and spoke to Voldemort and they talk about him in the street. He knows better. The Healers at the hospital never talk and when Death Eaters attempted to infiltrate the place and kill off the weak the healers fought back. Neville owes them everything. Still, he is not sure how to approach his parents. They don't understand anything he says of course so he feels more pressured to understand things from his end. He needs to get his story straight and he doesn't know how. Would they approve of his rule breaking? He is at least sure they would have wanted him to fight.

Eventually he goes because his Grandmother kicks him out of their home and informs him it is time to stand on his own feet. He spends a night at the Burrow in shock and then finds a flat. He has the financial means but still, it is hard. The secretary doesn't speak to him, just writes his name down and ushers him in as if the war never happened. It annoys him.

His parents are where they have always been. His mother is fiddling with a newspaper and his father is staring out of the window at an illusion the Healers cast. Neville finds it is isn't them that he is looking at though. No, he looks at their nurse. Well, no, she is a volunteer. More importantly she is Narcissa Malfoy and Neville's wand only stays in his robes because he knows the Healers defended his parents against an attack.

"What the fuck are you doing here?"

He is blunt and he doesn't care. His parents won't notice and he wants Narcissa to know he is angry. He may not be the most confident even now but he has learned to stand up for himself and if he can do it to Voldemort then he can do it to her.

"Mr Longbottom." Narcissa replies, before curtsying and putting Neville off his guard. "After the um...conflict I decided it was better to put myself to use. I have been...idle many years you see. I was, however, interested in a career in healing. I just want to help."

Before Neville can respond he sees his mother put down her newspaper and leave her bed to prod Narcissa in the arm. To Neville's shock Narcissa merely smiles and produces a fresh strip of gum for Alice to take to her bed.

"Typically your mother is more interactive with me, looking for her gum, but your father seems to understand things a little better. There are no photographs of your family here. I think that might help." Narcissa says quietly and that is when Neville's temper goes.

"You! You want to tell me about my parents. You who turned your nose up and hated us and let your son bully me? You. You want me to trust you and do thinks for you. I don't think so. My parents have never changed and they certainly won't get better with you here. I...I want you gone." Neville says clearly. To her credit Narcissa's face gives nothing away.

"I completely understand but...things were difficult and hard and I know that may make no difference to you right now but ...I have never worked a day in my life Mr Longbottom. I don't get paid for this. I do it to give something back. I truly believe your parents will benefit from this. Consult the Healers if you must. I'm astounded that they have not advised this already. Now, please keep your voice down. You're bothering A-, I mean, your mother."

Neville's mouth clamps shut. As much as he doesn't want to believe her she is right. His mother is looking at them with wide eyes and pulling her duvet up around her chin. He is scaring her. He nods to Narcissa, meaning a truce, and approaches his mother who looks at him wearily. Neville tells her about the good things he learned the past year at school and eventually Alice produces a wrapper.

***

"How, how, can you be letting Narcissa Malfoy into that ward?!" Neville questions the Head Healer.

" Mr Longbottom....Narcissa Malfoy was not convicted of any crime. In fact, if what the papers say is true then she is part of the reason we are free today and I assure you she has never done anything to endanger any of the patients on our ward. Her son is unemployed and rarely seen and her husband is under house arrest and frankly Mr Longbottom...we don't have ...we are struggling for volunteers."

Neville turns his back in anger and it means that he faces the window onto the ward. Narcissa stands at the back, up against the wall, carefully watching the patients. Her gaze goes down one side of the ward and up the other. When one man drops his book on the floor and bursts into tears she rushes towards him and picks it up, presses it into his hands, and urges him back into bed. Given what Neville knows about the patients he very much doubts the patient can actually read his book but Narcissa sits and helps him find his page anyway.

"You see, Mr Longbottom? She is not what I expected at all and believe me when she first came to us we watched her very carefully indeed."

"I don't like it."

*

Neville thinks about getting in contact with his grandmother and then decides against it. She will only confuse him. Whether that is winding him up into a torrent of rage or making him feel two inches small he is not sure but he convinces himself he needs to deal with this himself.

He decides to disillusion himself of all things and sit with another patient while observing the situation. He picks the man that dropped the book on the visit before and finds that his presence soothes the man more than speaking ever could. Immediately Neville feels guilty. How much of his time would it really take to sit with a few others and make them feel more comfortable? His parents would certainly never notice. He has never seen anyone visit anyone else, except at Christmas, in all his years in the ward. These people are simply abandoned to the Healers, or volunteers like Narcissa. Speaking of her, Neville fails to see her put a single toe out of line. It annoys him. She moves silently up and down the ward observing the patients unless they reach out to her. Some just make strange noises so she sits by their side until they stop and others like his mother make noises and then offer her gum or other rubbish or point at random things. She nods and smiles and never questions them and Neville cannot wrap his head around how a woman like that could have housed Voldemort, been married to a murderer, or raised a man like Draco.

Yet he cannot deny how good she is at her job, voluntary as it may be.

After his undercover operation as it were he returns a few days later with flowers for his parents and a picture of him with his NEWT qualifications. Standing in his own garden in old robes and several months after graduation anyone who pays attention will know that it is fake. Narcissa's words run around his mind though and he sits it side by side with him holding his first venomous plant at home and then him at a Gryffindor Quidditch match. It breaks his heart to see the way his father stares at the photographs as if he is trying to grasp a long forgotten memory. He doesn't realise he is crying until Narcissa puts a hand on his shoulder and conjures him a tissue.

"Are you quite alright, Mr Longbottom?"

"Neville. Just Neville. I didn't think that you would be right. I didn't expect them to...react this way. I....feel bad."

Another hand touches his other shoulder. "It is not your fault. We cannot predict the needs or wants of others when they can express themselves. Come, have a cup of tea."

Neville allows himself to be lead to the nurses' station. When he sits down a Healer from reception immediately takes Narcissa's place. Narcissa makes him a cup of tea and he is surprised to see that warming the tea is the only thing she does with magic. He takes the cup gratefully, and appreciates the added biscuit, but he can't help but state,

"Your sister did this."

"My sister did a lot of things. She nearly got my son killed. I...I had him on the edge Mr Longbottom. I nearly had him convinced to go to France and then she poisoned his mind. I'm not asking for forgiveness or understanding. Just...sometimes things are not within out control. We cannot predict the actions of others nor their impact. I am not Bellatrix. I am a sold pureblood bride whom is finally free," Narcissa insists softly.

"Sold?"

"What do you think bride prices are, Mr Longbottom? Promises of obedience and an heir."

"I never thought of that way." Neville admits while turning his cup in his hand and shrugging at Narcissa.

"Not many do. It is the way of so much of our world. I am lucky to be free of my husband. He no longer has the power to trap me in my home and he cannot follow me when I leave it. Frankly he belongs in a jail. I have no ulterior motive Neville, if I may call you that now. I have watched too many family members be blasted off my family tree for being ill for whatever reason. For love they have gone and for lack of ability they are never mentioned even in disdain. I am here to try and make amends but I have no plans to leave when I reach a limit. I am a rich woman Neville Longbottom. I plan to use those riches to exist while righting the wrongs of the past. My son's path is his own." Narcissa delivers passionately.

Neville is taken aback. It certainly distracts him from thinking of his parents. It makes him think of his grandmother's expectations of him at Hogwarts. She wanted him to be his father and he never was, never will be. How can he think others will be their parents without evidence. The world now knows that Draco was ordered to kill Albus Dumbledore. They also know that he didn't. They know that Draco was a pawn in two chess games. Draco was mean and cold but there was never any proof that he was a murderer.

A screech fills the ward and Narcissa dashes away. It is too close to be Neville's parents. He doesn't move. Her teacup remains, steaming a little. The Narcissa that Neville had in his head would never abandon that. Merlin, the Narcissa he had in his head would never volunteer within a ward at all, never mind one like this. There are far easier posts that would make her look good. Instead, she is in the ward her sister put patients in and she is trying to make them happy. It is hard to ignore that.

Neville leaves the ward without saying anything but he makes sure to wash out the cups before he goes.

*

The next time Neville appears on the ward he has something for everyone there. It doesn't cost him much but it creates a lot of smiles. For Narcissa he brings a fresh batch of flowers and a thank you.

"You really do care?"

"I always wanted to be a Healer."

"Seems you are healing my parents just fine, even just a little. Next week."

He turns on his heel, preparing to head to work but it doesn't stop him hearing her bow.

"Next week, Neville. I will have them ready."


70/sam/claw
Tags: *tumblr allowed, character: narcissa black-malfoy, character: neville longbottom, creator: ayebydan, form: fic, genre: angst, genre: gen, rating: pg-13
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