Trust the Morning
It was Remus who brought him in, small and quiet with that hair
. He was different than the others, not worn and haunted like Remus or snarling and twitchy like the ones who worked for You Know Who. He crouched on the outskirts, vibrant and still, and Neville caught himself staring more times than was comfortable. He pushed down the disappointment when he lost sight of him after dinner, consoling himself with a fresh cup of tea. The hand on his shoulder was too gentle to be startling.
"I'm Oz," he said, smiling.
Neville smiled back, his own name forgotten.
If anyone had told Oz he'd be sitting in a room full of witches ever again, he'd have considered it an odd suggestion, but after all it was difficult to surprise him. He watched and listened, because that's what he did
, and though there might have been many reasons he sought out the quiet, chubby one with the soulful eyes, what it really came down to was that he smelled good. From across the room Oz could smell him, all fresh greens and warm earth, with a strong hint of black tea. Oz closed his eyes, breathed deep and followed.
Oz liked Muggle music and American sandwiches, and Neville liked Oz, which worked quite well as far as Neville was concerned. Whether Oz liked Neville was a question of constant interest to him, and he often found himself in the greenhouse posing increasingly embarrassing versions of it to the less gossip-driven plants. When Remus paired them up for training, Neville was too nervous to be grateful.
"Isn't he a Muggle?" Harry asked, his voice not quite low.
"Yes, silly," Luna whispered, eyes wide. "But they're in love
Neville's face burned as Oz's cool fingers wrapped around his wrist.
The first battle was nothing like Neville expected. If the Department of Mysteries had lasted for eternity, this raced by in a mad blur. Neville lost himself in the work of it, firing hexes and blocking curses, unable to think about anything outside a ten-foot radius. Oz slid in and out of sight, keeping to the shadows when he could, struggling between using and fighting the wolf under the surface. Afterwards he sat still as the others laughed, cautiously celebrating their first victory. I'm not afraid of it,
Neville shouted, his voice lost in the din. Oz looked away.
Each night was drawn out and savored, as though it might be their last. In the mornings, Oz curled himself up into Neville, letting the past fall deep into the parts of his mind he couldn't reach. Neville's arms were solid around him--fierce and protective in a way that reminded him of how he used to hold her
. Thinking about that didn't bring out the wolf anymore, and he burrowed closer, trying not to consider what that meant.
In training, when Harry Potter touched Neville's arm, Oz took deep breaths and pushed hard against the darkness in his chest.
"I don't care." Neville stood, arms crossed.
"I know." Oz zipped up his duffle bag. "But I have to." He picked the bag up off the bed.
Neville hesitated for a split second, and then he was just there
, pulling Oz roughly to him and kissing him hard. His fingers tightened, making red marks on Oz's shoulders. The kiss turned softer but no less relentless, and Oz muffled a growl as his bag slid onto the floor. Neville finally broke away, still holding Oz's shoulders tight.
"Maybe someone else let you walk away like this," Neville said. "But I won't."
Neville spent weekends between the greenhouse at Gran's and the gardens at Number 12 Grimmauld Place, where he'd built a sanctuary for Oz near the back. It was for meditation and "de-wolfing" as Neville called it, and Neville had filled it with rich greenery and stepping stones, and the light scent of some flower Oz couldn't remember the name of. The war became background for them as they became background for everyone else, intruding only as they sat up nights, waiting for each other to return safely home. Trust the morning
, Neville would say. Morning always brought them home.
The characters and universe presented in this story belong to Joss Whedon and JK Rowling. I claim no rights to this copyrighted material. Many thanks to Willysunny for the once-over.
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