FIC: "The Good One, The Mad One, The Bad One" for naughtysnail Recipient:naughtysnail Author:dognmonkeyshow Title: The Good One, The Mad One, The Bad One Rating: NC-17 Pairings: Neville/Rosemerta Word Count: ~4800 Warnings: Nothing that isn't implied by the ship and the rating, though it is a bit on the angsty side. Summary: Sometimes you just have to throw the rule book out the window and follow your instincts. Author's Notes:naughtysnail, you asked for a a metric ton of things I love to write, including cross-gen with the younger person initiating, and angsty, secret relationships. I couldn't manage to make it chan, and I know you asked for no Weasleys but for some reason I can't write Rosemerta without Weasleys at least being mentioned, but I hope it pleases anyway! And a 120 decibel shout-out to my beta, the lovely 'M,' who repeatedly smacked me back on track as per her brief.
Every year I wonder: which one will it be this year?
Every third Saturday of October rolls around, sooner, it seems, every year. Some faces are gone, some faces are new, and they all make their way to my place eventually. And as every smiling, red-cheeked face comes in the door I look them over. Well, the boys, anyway, though there’s been a couple of girls over the years who’ve tried, too. I like to see who’s got taller, who’s got quieter, who’s got brasher, who looked like they’d grown into the kind of bloke to make a pass at a barmaid old enough to be their mum.
There was one every year and some were harder to turn down than others, let me tell you.
I’ve never had a taste for ginger, but the promise of Charlie Weasley’s sixteen year old shoulders gave me a twinge of regret or two. I’ve always said you could tell a lot about a man from his hands and I remember his were already beautiful: square and strong and just starting to roughen up. Strangely enough, Percy’d been a bit of a heartbreaker; so stuffy and formal, ‘till he’d taken off his glasses and he’d looked so, so, lost and sad and hopeful, for a moment I’d wanted to wrap my arms around him and tell him everything would be all right before dragging him in the back and ravishing him. Which I didn’t, of course.
They’d all made a play, of course, except for the youngest. He’d been too busy tagging after Harry Potter and the girl with the hair, and now they were off saving the world, poor little sods.
Thank God Harry’d never been one of them. Talk about making a girl feel old: turning down the sons of blokes you’d turned down when they were teenagers.
That first year had been a busy one; I’d felt like an heiress at a ball. But then, me and my girls had been twenty-five years younger and I’d just taken over the Broomsticks from Uncle Nigel. That summer the men had crowded around like bears at a beehive; apparently, most men dream of marrying a woman who owns a pub. I hadn’t been in the mood or the market, and the old cosh under the bar had had to make a few appearances before things calmed down.
It was a few years before I got my first real temptation. And oh, what a temptation that was. Sirius Black. Seventeen years old, body like one of those statutes of the young gods in some Muggle museum somewhere and those blue eyes that promised all the right kinds of sin.
But the thought of trying to meet Albus’ eye after sleeping with one of his students kept me on the straight and narrow. I found companionship other places, far from Hogsmeade and its gossiping housewives with too much time on their hands.
After the first war, things trotted along in their settled way for years, and like everyone else I fell into a kind of comfortable sleep. The Broomsticks prospered and so did I, and every October, like clockwork, I had to gently discourage another randy young fellow overreaching himself. Then the night came that Amos and Frances’s boy was killed; that woke us up, and before we knew it we were at war again.
Though sometimes it was hard to tell. The quiet reminded me of granddad's stories of the last Muggle war. That one had started with quiet, too. The phoney war, they'd called that. During the years of our phoney war we tried to fool ourselves. We lied to ourselves that people disappeared all the time, that Muggles were murdered every day, and no one spoke the words we all feared: that He was back.
Then Albus died. And a little bit of us all died with him.
People changed. Children grew up too fast. Folks you thought were solid turned out to be cowards, and folks you'd hardly ever noticed turned out to be lions. And suddenly the old rules didn’t seem to matter much any more.
Minerva tried her best, God bless her, she really did. But with You-Know-Who in control of the Ministry, Snape in charge of the school, and everything falling apart, it seemed as though it was just a matter of time before it would all be over.
I’d never been this afraid during the first war; another “benefit” of getting older, I guess. Late some nights after I’d closed up I didn’t want to go back to my empty cottage. I felt restless, like I should be doing something else. And I felt guilty for not helping while people were disappearing and dying. Not that I knew what to do.
When the knock came on my back door that night I was sure I was done for. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t terrified when I crept through the empty barrels to see who it was.
Aberforth’s voice through the door knocked me back on my heels. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen the man away from his grotty little hole and his goats.
I caught myself just before opening the door. “How do I know it’s you?”
“For Merlin’s sake, woman, open the bloody door! It’s colder than Circe’s tits out here!”
It certainly sounded like Aberforth.
I peeked out the window; he was standing there with someone wearing a hooded cloak. They could have been anyone. What was he doing bringing me strangers in the middle of the night in times like these?
Assuming it even was him. How could I be sure?
Think, Rosie, think. Question, question, I need a question.
My mind went blank. I couldn’t ask him anything about me because I don’t think I’d passed more than twenty words with the man in the twenty-five years we'd lived in the same village. Something he’d know that a Death Eater wouldn’t…
“What was my Uncle Nigel’s wife’s name?” There, that was going back far enough.
There was nothing but the wind outside and after a minute I glanced out to see if they were still there.
Aberforth’s nose was pressed to the glass and I gave a startled little shriek. The leer on his face was something I hoped stayed out of my dreams. Nightmares, more like.
“Nice try, girl. You know Nigel was giving it to my brother every Wednesday and twice on Sundays for forty years.”
No I hadn’t known, and thanks very much for the image, you cranky old git.
I wondered if he’d even bother trying to remember.
Aha, he did; I could tell by the grimace.
“Just a... he married that Irene Bleeker cow, now I think back on it. Just after I bought the Hog's Head. Then she ran off with Dodger Gudgeon a year later.”
When they were inside, the mystery guest dropped the hood of his cloak and I was stunned to see Neville Longbottom. His teeth were chattering and he wasn’t wearing any gloves, despite the freezing fog outside.
“Come in, there's a fire on.” I ducked behind the bar and grabbed two more glasses, then poured them each a healthy measure from the firewhiskey I'd taken out for myself before.
Neville gave his a suspicious look while Aberforth knocked his back in one.
“Go on boy; puts hair on your chest.” He gestured with his empty glass and another leer.
I expected Neville to protest something about his gran not letting him drink spirits, but he picked it up and took a sip. He tried to hide a grimace and Aberforth laughed.
I reached over to take the glass. “I'll get you a butterbeer.”
“No, no, it's fine. I'll finish it.” He took a larger sip. “It's--” He coughed, “warming me--” cough, “up.” He wiped his eyes with the back of his hand and irritably pushed back a lock of hair that had fallen into his eyes. His cheeks were red and I couldn't tell if it was from embarrassment, the whiskey or the fire at his back.
I took the seat between them. “So, what are you doing out of the school in the middle of the night, Mr. Longbottom?” I looked at Aberforth. “And what are you doing bringing him here?”
Neville took another drink and managed to not cough. He looked a little proud, which was sort of endearing. “I need to send a message and all the owls in and out of the school are being intercepted.”
“Who would you need to send a message to that would get the Ministry in a lather?” I thought I knew the answer to that, of course, but I wanted him to say. “I can't imagine anything you write to your gran would be of any interest to anybody else.”
Yes, the blush was back and it definitely wasn't from the fire or the firewhiskey. Was he embarrassed or upset?
“If you're writing to--”
“It's no business of yours who the boy's writing to.”
“It is if he wants my owl to carry it for him.” I glanced at Neville. “That’s why you’re here, isn’t it?”
The two of them shared a brief look before Neville replied, his brown eyes solemn. “I need to send a message to Remus Lupin.”
After that he appeared every week or so. At first he'd barely stay a minute, pressing the note into my hand with mumbled thanks before slipping back out into the night.
He’d never asked me to not read the notes and I’ll admit I was dying of curiosity to know what was going on up at the school. But I never looked, no matter how much I wanted to. I was still furious at myself for letting that little Malfoy shit get me under Imperius, and truth be told, in the back of my mind I didn’t trust myself to not get caught again. Ignorance was safer. What if the Ministry ever found out I was passing on messages for him? I couldn’t be forced to give them information I didn’t have.
At the beginning it was a bother, staying up late every night, not knowing if he’d come or not. It wasn’t as if he could give me warning and I never saw Aberforth again after that first night. The Ministry most likely had him under very close surveillance so I guess it was best he kept to his usual hermit ways.
Through the late autumn and into winter the visits became more erratic, later and later into the night. Snape likely suspected something, and as Headmaster he’d have the castle itself helping him keep an eye on the students. I can’t imagine how terrifying that must have been for the boy, but still he came, usually on his own but twice with the Weasley girl and once with that pompous little Hufflepuff Ernie MacMillan, looking down his nose at me as if he wasn't one of the first students in my pub every Hogsmeade day.
As the nights got longer, his visits did as well. It was a bitter winter that year and I guess he didn’t much look forward to heading back out into the wind and snow in the darkest hours of the night. And as I said, I didn’t look forward much to nights alone in my little house on the edge of town. It didn’t feel safe anymore, and I enjoyed the company.
I’d never noticed Neville much over the years. I don’t think anyone did. He’d always seemed on the edge of things: the edge of Potter’s little gang, sometimes hanging about with Finnegan and Thomas. As I got to know him I realised he didn’t seem to mind. He was a strangely self-possessed fellow. I guess being raised by a stuffy old pair like his gran and great-uncle taught him to be content on his own.
The first few times he took up my offer and stayed for a drink—just tea, as often as not—he barely spoke, answered questions with a shrug or a word or two. But it struck me that he never seemed afraid, just a little awkward and uncomfortable.
Weeks of stilted conversations that felt like pulling teeth went by before he admitted how strange it was at school, his dorm almost empty with Potter, Weasley and Thomas gone. He didn't say he missed them, but he didn't need to. It was the first time he mentioned the school.
I never asked him what was going on up at the castle, no matter how much I wanted to. Rumours made their way out to the village about how You-Know-Who had set two of his worst on the students and Snape doing nothing to protect them. Neville never mentioned Snape at all, which I thought was kind of strange.
It was an unspoken understanding between us: we only talked about ordinary, everyday things. I was tired all the time, so tired from worry and fear, I didn't have the energy to hash out war stories with him. And I didn't want to upset the friendship—I guess it was a friendship, of a sort—that was growing between us.
So, we budged along into the winter. I never thought of Neville's “visits” as having anything to do with the war, which was stupid because he was using me to send messages to one of the most important resistance leaders. I refused to think about the danger I was putting myself into. There was no rhyme or reason to what was going on, so I thought, why bother wasting time worrying about getting caught?
In December when he told me he wouldn't be back until the new year I was a little sad. I'd miss him. And I'd miss wondering about him, wondering if he would be by that night, wondering how he was faring.
Christmas passed and the breath the world seemed to be holding drew in a little tighter. Just after Christmas the cold deepened and some days no one came to the Broomsticks at all. There was a sense of anticipation in the air, tinged with dread.
My cousin Esther and her boys came up New Year’s eve, as they always did, so that we could have a traditional Hogmanay. Though I don’t know if having a tall, dark haired man the first person through the door at midnight was going to bring me any luck. At least this year it wasn’t Snape; not an omen I’d want to start off this year with. Bronwyn Scrivenshaft and her husband Gregorius joined us, as usual; we were a subdued little group, but we managed to keep the cold away.
The new year arrived, and brought no good news with it, cursed thing. The students returned, and Hagrid said the crowd was the thinnest he’d ever seem. More and more parents were keeping their kiddies at home, and if I’d been in their shoes I’d have done the same.
For a week I wondered if Neville was one of them. But one night there was a knock at the door and after a quick exchange of secrets, he was in his seat by the fire. I didn’t see the usual note in his coat pocket, though.
He looked different. It had only been three weeks but something had happened that’d changed him. There was an expression in his eyes that didn't look right for him. Resolute? Yes, that's what it was: he looked resolute.
I set another glass in front of him and pulled over the whiskey. He didn't protest.
“It doesn't look like a tea night.”
He glanced from the bottle to me. “No.” But he didn't pour any of it out, so I topped up my glass and filled his.
He didn't move to drink it though, just looked at the shimmering sparks settling into the bottom of the glass. “They took my friend Luna.”
“Oh, no.” No need to say who “they” were.
“Off the Hogwarts Express on the way back home for Christmas. They walked up, bold as brass, in front of all of us and just took her.” He paused, head down so I couldn't see his eyes. “No one did anything. No one even said a word. Everyone just watched.”
He was blaming himself, of course. He had just watched. He hadn't said a word.
His hands lay on the table and he was clenching and unclenching them in a slow rhythm. Oh, my hands just itched to reach out to him.
We both jumped at a knock at the back door.
“I don't know.” I glanced at the clock. It was after two. Who else would be coming to the back door at this time of night?
I could tell from his expression he was grasping for some hope it wasn't the Ministry. Or worse. “In the basement with you, then,” I whispered, waving him towards the trapdoor behind the bar.
“No. It'll be better for you if I go with them.”
“Don't be daft! I can get rid of them and there's no point in you—”
“There's no point arguing until we know who it is. Besides—” He cracked a wry smile. “Death Eaters wouldn't bother knocking, would they?”
I stared at him for a moment and the painful tightness in my chest loosened a little. “Maybe. We'll see.” I waved at the bar again. “Get over there, though and lift up the door. It'll save time if you have to get down there.”
He didn't look happy about it. Young idiot probably thought he could duel a pair of Aurors to protect my honour. Such as it is.
I crouched behind a sack of dried hops next to the door. “Who is it?”
There was no answer.
Neville stood by the end of the bar, watching. I shooed him back out of sight but he didn't move.
The wind had died down in the night; it was deathly still outside and I felt tense as a mother's smile when she'd just been introduced to her daughter's new vampire boyfriend.
“Whoever you are quit playing silly buggers and shove off.”
I shrugged at Neville. He just stared back at me, eyes wide and dark.
I crept over to the window and peeked out the corner. There wasn't anyone right by the door, but they could be hiding behind Polly Paulson's bins. I tried to imagine Death Eaters hiding behind cast off fabric trimmings and bits of lace but it wasn't coming to me. While I was looking, Neville had crept into the room and was looking out the edge of the window on the other side of the door.
My best “what do you think you're doing; you should be hiding, you idiot” look didn't faze him one bit, though his face was very pale. I guess I must have had a questioning look on my face, because he shook his head. There was no one out there.
I dropped down onto a sack I thought I was going to pass out from the relief. In a moment, Neville was on his knees beside me, hand on my wrist.
“Are you all right?”
He looked so concerned, so steadfast. So fierce.
I reached out and brushed a lock of hair back out of his eyes. I don’t know why I did it. But I know I was sick and tired of seeming like the one sane person in a world gone mad. In that moment I needed someone else sane, too.
He blushed and it almost made me weep with gratitude to see it. While the voice in the back of my mind chanted all the reasons this was likely something I'd forever regret, I decided to be resolute, too. And I was tired of being alone.
I waited for him to decide. He was looking down at his hand still wrapped around my wrist. As we watched it, his thumb stroked, ever so gently, along the inside of my arm. We looked up and our eyes met. His blush was positively radiant, but he didn't look away.
I reached out and stroked the side of his face. Yes, it was hot, all right.
I leant over and I don't think he realised what I was doing until just before my lips touched his. There was the slightest intake of breath at that moment, like the tiniest little “oh”.
His lips were chapped. I didn't care.
It was pretty obvious he'd never kissed anyone before, but I didn't care about that, either.
He was a quick learner; and that made all the difference in the world.
There was kissing. An awful lot of kissing. I've always thought kissing was a vitally important part of life, so I wasn't going to complain about the abundance of kissing.
But I wanted his hands on me. God, I wanted his hands on my breasts, my thighs. As he kissed my throat I took one of his hands and tucked it just beneath my breast. He paused for a moment, his breath damp at the join of my neck and shoulder. Then he curled his fingers around it gently, almost as if he were thinking about the weight of it in his hand. As he caressed it, his thumb brushed across the nipple and we both gasped.
I sensed he was going to pull back. The last thing I needed was his good sense interfering, so I pulled him back up into another kiss. As he relaxed into it, I pulled my blouse off my shoulder, hinting.
His hand stroked down my shoulder, then back up, twice. Out of the corner of my eye I could see him watching his hand. Then he pulled the fabric down and buried his face underneath it. As I gasped from the shock, he made to pull back, but I was damned if I was letting his stop now. I ran my fingers through his hair, encouraging him.
When he pushed aside my shift and took the nipple in his mouth I moaned and couldn't help wrapping a leg around him. The sack of hops rustled as I leant back against an old cupboard, drawing him back with me.
He was hard. I shouldn't have been surprised, but I was.
I wanted to touch him. When I began to unbuckle his belt, he stopped. He was flushed and a little crazed looking, with his red face and his hair rumpled.
He watched as I palmed him through his trousers, and made a small hissing sound. God, I needed to feel him, feel something other than cold.
I slid my hand inside and he groaned. He held open the front of his trousers, watching my hand. His expression was damned flattering: gobsmacked, like the most amazing thing in the world was happening to him.
His flesh was hot and I wanted to shove my other hand in and get it warm, too.
As I began to stroke him, he ran his hand up my leg, pushing my skirt up to bunch across my thighs. Tentative, as if he was afraid he might hurt me, he pressed the flat of his hand over my mound. I couldn't help it; I arched up to encourage him.
I love a man who shows initiative.
God, I wanted him to touch me. Fuck me. Anything.
As he looked up to meet my eyes he slid his fingers into my knickers and the briefest possible smile crossed his face. If it'd been anyone else, I'd have thought he was being cheeky.
The wetness startled him, I could tell. But he didn't pull back. Thank God he wasn't a squeamish one. I let him explore a bit on his own. Every time he managed to brush up against my clit I let out a moan. He was almost too gentle, though.
I moved my hand over his and placed his thumb and fingers just so, then flexed my wrist twice to show him the rhythm I wanted. And even thought it was awkward at first, it felt gorgeous and it gave me a thrill to be giving him directions. Men I'd been with generally didn't like me taking charge but Neville didn't mind. And my God, he knew how to take orders.
I tried to keep an even pace on his cock, but I couldn't fight the pleasure surging up through my body and I gave in to it. His hand quickened. I could tell he was close, but his hand didn't stop until I was finished, slumped back and panting.
It looked like he was in pain, poor fellow, staring down at my hand resting just inside his pants. I wanted to hear those lovely, flattering little sounds again. They made me feel all light-headed.
I cradled the back of his neck with my other hand and I didn't mind the damp spot he was panting onto my blouse.
I quickened my pace and those little moans returned. He was still in my knickers, fingers slack and warm, holding me in the palm of his hand. Just before he came his fingers spasmed and my body convulsed again. God, it was delicious.
He turned his head just enough and as his eyes met mine he came all over my skirt and leg. I kept going till he was done and I could tell he normally didn't do that for himself because he just melted against me in the end.
It was suffocating, him pressing me back against the cupboard like that. But it felt wonderful: warm and secure, his weight, the bulk of him in my arms, the smell of his skin and hair mixed with the familiar, soothing smell of hops.
I let him catch his breath. But I knew we had to end it there.
“People’ve been underestimating you for years, haven’t they?”
“Um, yeah, I guess.”
The poor boy; I was torturing him. Expecting him to talk sense in his state was downright cruel.
I've never been a sentimental person, and as comforting as it was to have him there, I knew he had to leave. The longer I let him stay, the harder I knew it would be to convince him to go. And there was no question of him staying. He'd be missed.
There was an strained silence as we put ourselves back together. A few wand waves later and it was almost as if it had never happened. We stood there among the sacks of hops; neither of us knew what to say, apparently. He was blushing still (I don't think he'd stopped since I'd first touched him) but he met my eye easier than some men twice his age have, afterwards.
“You'd better get back.”
He nodded and while he fetched his coat from the front, I checked the alley again. From what I could see there was no one out there, but you never know. As he fastened his coat, I wanted to thank him, but how do you thank someone for such a thing? It's not like he helped me hang new curtains, is it?
I wanted to tell him to be careful, but I knew he would anyway.
I wanted to apologise for overlooking him for years, but I don't think he'd understand what I was talking about.
After he was gone I sat back down in front of the fire and drank the firewhiskey I'd poured for him.
How could I have been so wrong? Not that I minded in this case, but all my life I'd assumed I knew men, knew how they thought, what they wanted, which ones were interested, which ones would be trouble. Knew how to spot the good ones, the mad ones, the bad ones.
For twenty-five years I'd lived by my set of rules, no matter how many temptations had crossed my path. Now I'd broken the cardinal one, and I didn't feel one scrap of regret. But I was glad it was now, and I was glad it had been him. The one I'd missed, even though he'd been right in front of me all along.