|beholder_mod (beholder_mod) wrote in hp_beholder,|
@ 2008-04-23 16:33:00
|Entry tags:||augusta longbottom, femslash, fic, pomona sprout|
FIC: 'Quite Some Time Since' for zephre
Title: Quite Some Time Since
Pairings: Augusta Longbottom/Pomona Sprout
Word Count: 4120
Disclaimer: Augusta and Pomona belong to JKR.
Summary: Have you ever wondered what might have happened if I'd asked you first?
Author's Notes: Thank you to zephre for the very detailed request. I hope you enjoy this. Thank you also to L for the wonderful beta job.
The door bowed with the force of the third knock.
"Mrs. Longbottom," the man yelled. The fierceness in his tone told Augusta he was not going anywhere until he'd said whatever he'd come to say. She rummaged in her handbag and grasped her wand.
Before starting towards the door, she summoned an apron from the kitchen drawer by the sink, and with a swish of her wand, the apron and her left cheek were spattered with flour.
Donning a harassed look, she flung open the door. The man on the doormat appeared equally harassed. He looked like something out of an American mafia film, stocky and strong, with a cap of steel-wool hair on his head. He looked like a man to send to get a job done.
"Sorry, I was baking," she said airily. "They've already been by to collect for the widows and orphans. I've nothing left, if that's why you're here."
"Mrs. Longbottom," he said, in a long-suffering tone. "I'm Dawlish. From the Ministry. I need to speak to you about your grandson."
There had been a time, in a different lifetime, when she had waited everyday for such a call. Many days when, not having heard from Frank, she sat, cup of tea in hand, and stared at the door. And then one day, it had come.
Mrs. Longbottom, I need to speak to you about your son and daughter-in-law. You'd better come with me right away.
The woman had been from the Order of the Phoenix, not the Ministry, and it wasn't quite the news she'd been dreading.
She felt her knees give way a bit and caught herself on the door handle. Dawlish pushed past her, muttering something about too many Muggles being about.
A niggling little voice at the back of her head made her slip her wand out of sight, into the sleeve of the cardigan she wore over her robes.
Dawlish turned to face her in the entry way, the moment the door clicked shut. Augusta noticed a spider spinning a web in the corner, a cobweb she'd have to remember to clear away later.
"Mrs. Longbottom, do you need to sit down?" he asked. His kind tone sounded absurd in that ruffian's voice.
"Do I?" she asked, steeling herself for what would come next.
"Err, no, I mean --" he said, looking away. "That is, you'll be coming with me."
"Will I now," she said. "And why is that?"
She saw two things at once. His left hand twitched in his pocket and his eyes darted back to her face, a hangdog expression written in his eyes.
He was fast, but she was faster.
She stepped over his prone form. Leaning in, she saw that his chest was rising and falling, a bit erratically, but moving nonetheless. She pointed her wand at him and watched as lovely, silky, silver cords wrapped around and held him, tight and snug like an insect in a web. With a nod to the spider, whose web would now go undisturbed, she Disapparated.
The cottage was clearly still lived-in. Augusta sighed with relief. Rose bushes of all sizes filled the beds, and the tips of the first crocuses peeked out on the bank in front. Muggle flowers, to be sure, but a quick peek over the fence surrounding the back garden and the sight of Flutterby bushes, and a greenhouse filled with mallowsweet and monkshood confirmed that this home still belonged to Pomona Sprout. It was Wednesday, so if Pomona came here for the weekends, she had a day and a half to wait.
She wasn't certain what impulse had landed her here, but as she muttered "Alohamora" and opened the back garden gate, she felt she was in the right place.
She saw from a glance inside the back window that the cottage had been changed from the fussiness and doilies she remembered as Pomona's mother's taste. There was a plain wooden table, a tan rug, and a cream couch. From what she could see, few pieces of art, photographs, or knick-knacks adorned the walls and shelves. The simple furnishings and banal decorations made room for the riot of colour provided by the plants. Every shade of green, and yellows, reds, and purples, brought the rooms to life.
She never would have guessed that she would be a fugitive at her age.
She'd seen Pomona now and again over the years, but not since Neville had started at Hogwarts. Pomona was his favourite professor, that he made quite clear. While she had regular correspondence from Minerva, and some of rather a different nature from Professor Snape, she'd heard nothing from Professor Sprout. It made her wonder, with nothing more than curiosity, what Pomona remembered.
Augusta sat down on an upturned wheelbarrow, and let her eyes fall closed.
The Three Broomsticks was teeming with students drinking Butterbeer, and some who'd snuck something stronger. The stuffy interior of the pub contrasted sharply with the bright, clear day.
School ended in three days. Augusta was looking forward to getting out of her house, finishing school and moving away. Not that her family was awful, like some of her friends', there were just too bloody many of them in one place. It seemed particularly crowded now that Mother gave her pained looks every time she crossed her line of sight. She seemed to be on the precipice of causing a bit of a scandal. Mother now had uncomfortable answers to some of the questions about what Augusta would be doing after she'd finished school, that inevitably cropped up when mum lunched with her friends. Everyone knew she was walking out with Konrad, and a young women who was seeing quite a bit of her gentleman friend, not yet engaged, and not living at home - well, people talked.
The little room in the home of an elderly witch in London glowed in her mind's eye, a sanctuary. None of the other girls her age were moving out of their family homes, even if they had jobs. And Augusta couldn't wait to start her job. Her excellent marks and nine NEWTS meant she could have chosen many vocations, but she'd found exactly what she wanted. The future assistant to the curator at the Quidditch Museum was another source of pain for her mother.
She'd been sitting across the table from Pomona for twenty minutes now, nursing her Butterbeer, and wondering why Pomona had insisted on meeting without any of their other housemates or friends. She'd assumed that Pomona wanted to say good-bye. The girl had been acting oddly whenever they were together lately. Pomona was a little odd anyway, with her unusual hair, the constant presence of gardening boots, and the strong hands that were obviously used to work.
Augusta would miss the friendship they'd had at school, and Pomona's help in Potions and Herbology. Even although she was a year younger, she was devilishly talented at those subjects. And she helped Pomona in, well, everything else. But lately, she'd had feelings, thoughts, about Pomona that complicated her dreams, and made her put off dates with Konrad to sit in crowded pubs looking at those short-nailed fingers wrapped around a bottle.
Augusta opened her mouth to say that Konrad would be waiting, and she had one last exam to sit, and she'd be getting on if it was all the same to Pomona.
Pomona snapped her head up at Augusta's intake of breath. She was toying nervously with her drink, and looking at Augusta without meeting her eyes. "Did you ever think about.no, never mind," she said.
There was an uncomfortable pause, in which Pomona sipped her drink, spilled it down the front of her robes, and then ran her hand through her closely-cropped hair without brushing away the spill.
"No. Tell me. What?"
"I wondered, is all, I wondered sometimes when we were together," Pomona's soft voice trailed off and she looked down, fiddling with the salt mill on the table. "If you'd ever thought about us."
For a split second, Augusta wondered if she could pretend not to know what Pomona meant, to continue to avoid the possibility. After wondering for years, she had Konrad. She had Konrad and her job and her room, and anything else didn't make sense.
"Yes," Augusta said. "I did."
Augusta forced open her eyes and shook her head to clear away the memory. She hoisted herself off the wheelbarrow, grasped her wand, and set about seeing if she could disarm some of Pomona's wards.
It wouldn't do to be seen.
Friday evening came and the dinner hour passed, and Pomona did not show up. Augusta had decided to lie low in the back garden, so that she could knock on the door and perhaps avoid being hexed. But as dusk turned to dark and the air turned chilly, she went back inside.
More than a day in this limbo, and Augusta felt more tired than she had in years. No word yet from Neville, but that aching worry she remembered from so many years ago hadn't returned. Somehow, she knew he was all right.
She sat down on the couch and let her eyes drift shut as outside the sky turned a deep navy and the moon cast an ethereal glow in the room.
Augusta had her wand in her hand before she was awake, the sensation of a wand at her neck sharp in her mind.
Pomona was standing over her, a look of fierce determination on her face.
"What are you doing here," Pomona snapped.
"I don't know," Augusta answered, truthfully. She had no desire to make up a story at this point. "Please remove your wand from my neck, Pomona. I had to get away, and I suppose I didn't think anyone would look for me here."
The pressure against her neck remained.
"What was the only subject you received betters marks at than me at school?" Pomona asked. Her tone was rough, but she had a slight twinkle in her eye.
"If you think there was only one, your memory's going," Augusta said.
Pomona laughed, a deep throaty laugh that brought to mind late nights in the common room, with dusty tomes and parchment spread over the table.
"How are you, Augusta?" she said, lowering her wand. "And what the hell are you doing here?"
It was odd to sit and let Pomona make the tea. Augusta was not accustomed to being served, and while she had taken food and drink from Pomona's cupboards extremely judiciously since trespassing in her home, she had prepared her own meals.
It was even odder to be this close to Pomona, something that hadn't happened since school.
"Sounds as if you've had an exciting few days," Pomona said. She sat down across from Augusta, and smiled kindly as she handed her a sandwich and a cup of tea.
"It would seem I am a fugitive from justice," Augusta said, attempting something like levity.
"Neville's gone as well," Pomona said, and Augusta noticed that she sounded genuinely sad. "You know that?"
"I have no doubt that Neville is well and sorting out how to best vex the enemy," Augusta said.
Pomona huffed and her eyes turned stormy. "This is preposterous. You nearly arrested, half the students gone, the other half either terrorized or brainwashed. Neville should be sitting his NEWTs, not off Merlin knows where vexing enemies."
"This is a war, Pomona. You've been through one before," Augusta said.
"What happened to the Auror?" Pomona asked. There was a sudden light in her face, and she looked directly into Augusta's eyes.
"I have no idea," Augusta said, casting her eyes down at her plate, and away from Pomona's gaze. She felt the beginnings of a smile at the corners of her mouth. "Left him tied up by the front door."
Pomona giggled. She actually giggled, and while Augusta had never approved of giggling girls, she found it charming despite herself.
"There always was more to you than meets the eye, Augusta," Pomona chuckled, and Augusta laughed as well. When Pomona spoke again, there was a perplexing tone to her voice that Augusta could only identify as hope. "So what made you come here?"
"I am terribly sorry to inconvenience you, Pomona," Augusta said. It sounded abrupt, even to her own ears, and she thought Pomona may have looked disappointed. "This is a terrible business, and I will compensate you for breaking into your home. I will leave very soon. But it didn't seem wise to be on the move just yet."
Anger bubbled up in her chest. Voldemort and his Death Eaters, and the idiocy of the Ministry had taken so much from so many. From her. And now that she was face-to-face with someone who had known her since she was a girl, she felt the sting of this final indignity, of having to behave like a common criminal.
"You will stay here as long as you like. Don't bring it up again."
The anger was replaced by gratitude that Pomona was apparently going to leave it at that.
Friday evening had come again. Augusta pointed her wand toward the kitchen and a huge wooden spoon stirred a cauldron of fragrant vegetable soup. It just wanted some herbs and it would be finished. Pomona was in the back garden fussing with the herbs. She knew now that, each time Pomona came in for the weekend she changed into what she called her `farmer togs' and went out to her garden, before she did anything else.
"It's worse and worse," Pomona said. She kicked off her boots and flopped heavily onto the couch beside Augusta. She looked haggard, and for the first time since meeting her again, Augusta thought she seemed old. "Minerva, and I, and a few of the others try, but it's not enough. I'm getting to the point where I don't know if I do any good by staying."
"Don't be ridiculous," Augusta said. Her voice was sharper than she intended and she banged her knee on the coffee table as she turned to face Pomona. "You must stay as long as you can. My grandson and his friends aren't giving up. Surely we adults have to show at least as much fortitude as the children."
Pomona sighed and nodded. She muttered, Godric's Hollow and tapped the wireless with her wand. Her eyes turned down in sadness as she listened to the voices of former students and colleagues fill the room with bad news, instructions to protect neighbours, and a disclaimer that any of them could be gone by next airtime.
"A lot of people on the run," Pomona said, and she gave Augusta a melancholy little smile. "Heard from Neville?"
Augusta shook her head. Neville was smart enough not to try and find her. Augusta was certain they would find each other when it came to it, and her letter to him had told him all that he needed to know for now.
"I'm sorry," Pomona said, quietly, and she placed her hand over Augusta's where it lay on soft tweed of the couch. Augusta looked at the hand on hers. It was sturdy, but smaller than her own, with short, square nails, and slightly dimpled knuckles. Augusta couldn't remember the last time someone had touched her.
She pulled her hand back and put in on her own lap. "There's nothing to be sorry for. Neville is fine."
"Let's have tea. It's getting late," Pomona said, and she went to the kitchen.
Steaming bowls of thick vegetable soup, with herbs from Pomona's garden, fresh bread, and sherry after, go a long way to improving one's disposition. Fed, and rested, and a few hours further away from the horror that had become Hogwarts, and Pomona had roses in her cheeks, and the characteristic pluck back in her voice.
Augusta shook her head at the odd get-up Pomona wore at weekends. In the Muggle trousers, patched old hat, and chambray shirt, she would have looked like a little, old Muggle farmer. That is, if the soft curves beneath the rough clothes weren't so decidedly womanly.
Augusta looked up and was almost as surprised to find Pomona studying her as she was at the thought she had just had. She cleared her throat and took another sip of sherry.
Pomona cocked her head and frowned. "Were you happy with Konrad?"
Augusta blinked. She blinked again.
Konrad had been gone long enough now that their life together existed in photographs, distant recollections of moments, and stories she told Neville.
"We had a good life," she said.
"Have you ever wondered what might have happened if I had asked you first?"
"Asked me what?" Augusta asked. She felt a strange pounding in her ears.
"If I'd asked you first," Pomona said. "To choose me."
Augusta had come to see her old friend as she had been; the sweet, slightly awkward, girl who sometimes reminded her of her little brother. But this Pomona had the confident look of a grown woman who knew exactly what she wanted. It was unnerving.
"Yes," Augusta said. "I did." The noise of crowded pub was suddenly gone.
Pomona smiled. Her cheeks flushed pink and she looked into her Butterbeer as she said, "Good, because I was wondering."
"I wondered. I think the world of you, but..." Augusta stopped. She wasn't at all certain how she'd meant to finish that sentence.
Pomona's face seemed to crumple in on itself. "Never mind. It's not so much that I need answer. It's only, I knew I'd regret it if I never asked," Pomona said.
"Pomona, I - "
"Stop, all right? Let's have our drinks and then you can help me with my essay for Defence."
"Augusta?" Pomona asked, and Augusta had the uncomfortable feeling that she'd been sitting and staring blankly ahead for quite some time.
"You never asked if I'd choose you," Augusta said. "You asked if I'd thought about it."
The smile that lit Pomona's face then seemed to encompass the whole room.
"You remember," she said, and Augusta nodded. "Right then, I'm asking now."
Augusta could count on one hand the number of times she'd initiated a kiss with Konrad. It wasn't that there was never any physical pleasure between them, it was just that neither of them were particularly the kissing type.
Pomona's lips were cool and dry. The skin of her cheek felt like softest cotton to the tips of Augusta's fingers. Those strong hands caressed her back and pulled her close, until their bodies were pressed together, and Augusta's head began to spin with the unfamiliarity of being this close to another person.
"It's been, er, quite some time, since, and I've never --" Augusta stammered. She shook her head, irritation burning in her chest. She had never stammered before in her life.
"I'll show you how, if you like," Pomona said, smiling like a girl, her hazel eyes twinkling. She took Augusta's hand in hers. "I am rather a good teacher, you know."
Augusta covered her eyes with her hands, shielding them from the brilliant sunshine that filtered in the through the curtains. The clock on the bedside table said it was ten past nine. That couldn't be right. Augusta couldn't remember ever having slept past seven. Of course, neither could she remember ever staying up past three in the morning.
Pomona sighed and turned over, still asleep despite the late hour and the bright light.
Augusta moved carefully to the edge of the bed. She breathed in relief that she had put on a nightgown. This was strange enough, without being naked. She swung her feet to the floor. The floorboard felt solid, real, and cool under her toes. She closed her eyes. Images of hands and lips touching her, and of her hands and her mouth touching smooth skin, full breasts, and of fingers reaching inside, feeling warm and wet, swam behind her eyelids.
It hadn't been unpleasant with Konrad. It hadn't been like that, either.
She wondered if she shouldn't leave here.
Pomona sighed again. This time, she shifted closer and wrapped an arm around Augusta's waist.
"Stay in bed," she murmured. "S'early."
Pomona's hand moved to her hip, pulling her back into the bed. Augusta turned to face her, and let her hands roam over Pomona's body, shivering when she realised that Pomona had not donned a nightgown.
Perhaps, she could stay. For now.
Augusta folded the hastily scribbled note neatly into quarters and put it into her purse.
Hogwarts is under attack. He's here. In case I don't see you - I'm glad I asked.
Augusta looked all the way round the front room, surveying it as one who was leaving for a long trip, or leaving for the last time. This house was familiar and welcoming now. It had become her home of sorts over the past weeks. She suppressed an urge to take the time to refresh the wards on the house. If they came back, they wouldn't need them anymore. If they didn't, well, they wouldn't need them then either.
"Right," she said. She stopped as she picked up her hat. The vulture that had been her talisman for sixteen years stared back at her. It had been a symbol of many things - of cleaning up messes left behind by others, a reminder to conserve what she had, of the importance of efficiency. Suddenly, all she saw was its need to feed upon death and decay, and it was no longer the message she needed. A patch of colour caught her eye. Hanging on the coat rack by the door, was the patched, moth-eaten hat that Pomona wore for gardening. Augusta pulled in on over her head, and hung her purse over her arm.
As she turned for one last look, the simplicity of the beiges and tans of the room faded in to the walls, and all she saw was the vibrant green, life.
The din of the battle still rang in her ears. She was making tea, because, despite everything else, they still needed sustenance.
Augusta shook leaves into the teapot for the second time. She hadn't put in enough the first time. She was used to making tea for one, to making it for two, but it had been many, many years since she had made it for three.
She flicked her wand toward the pot and watched steam rise into the air of the bright, warm kitchen.
When the tea was steeping under a cosy, the biscuits Pomona had baked last Sunday, and some quickly-made, simple sandwiches were on a plate, she lifted the tray with a rattle of china and silverware, and pushed open the swinging door.
Neville stood next to Pomona, in the corner of the room. He'd sprouted up in the past few months, just like Frank had at this age. Pomona's closely-cropped, silvered head barely reached his shoulder. They must not have heard the squeak of the door. They were standing in front of a plant with large, waxy leaves which Augusta knew was an acquisition from a trip to the Caribbean. She could never remember its name, had never given it much thought beyond the rich colour and green smell it added to the room. Pomona's tone was soft and reverent, Neville's eyes round and, oh, so like Alice's. As she walked closer, Augusta heard that they were talking about the amazing resilience of a plant that survived for so long, so far away from where its roots lay.
A list of what needed to be done began to write itself in her head. They'd have to support the professors in reopening Hogwarts, and get Neville's education finished. Although, let anyone doubt that he was already a qualified wizard. There would be celebrations and funerals to attend, again. She'd need to find a way to tell Frank and Alice that Neville had finished the work they had started so long ago. And then there was Pomona.
Pomona and Neville turned at the same time, both covered in soot, robes torn, scars of the battle here and there, and they smiled.
"Oh, I lost your hat," she said, her left hand lifting to touch her head. "It must have been that coward who tried to hex me from behind."
"I'll make another one," Pomona said. Her soft hazel eyes locked with Augusta's for a moment. "I think you and Neville should stay here for a bit. Your house will no doubt need some work."
There was a great deal to do. For now, they should have tea.