CHAPTER NINE: The Visiting Cousin
Mason Pennyworth was thirty-eight, six feet tall, and not a particularly strong man. His dark hair was immaculate, cut short and kept tight to his head, not a hair out of place. His eyes, sharp and grey, had a haze to them that spoke of an abuse of elixirs that were used to enhance magical abilities. Mason was not a very strong magic user, but he was an amazing potion brewer, and he was always happy to visit his favorite teacher at the castle and thank him for the man’s help in that department.
Seeing as it was a Hogsmeade weekend, there weren’t many students there to notice when Mason came visiting, nor was Professor Snape, the Potions Master out for the day. Mason was not deterred, duffel bag in hand as he wandered through the castle halls, checking his small mirror. He had a very nifty trick for finding his cousin when the boy went into hiding in his large manor, and even in the castle it wasn’t difficult to find the unsuspecting Neville, the boy fresh from a late breakfast, face downcast to be left behind when all his classmates had been allowed to go out and adventure.
Mouth splitting into a wicked grin when he caught sight of his beautiful cousin, Mason renewed his grip on his bag. He’d be sure to make sure Neville had other things to think about that day.
Neville had wanted to talk to Blaise, hoping to find a way to just, well, communicate that he wasn’t as unreceptive as the boy might think. Except, he was also a total mess about a lot of things, especially things he liked, and Neville was starting to suspect he might actually really like Blaise Zabini. A lot. Like, maybe almost as much as he liked Harry. And really, it had been hard enough talking to Harry, and he probably wouldn’t have done that if not for the fact that Harry had smelled like absolute sex, and his coyote had gone crazy and just fucked the boy senseless.
Neville was afraid he might actually be the type to be crazy, not just go crazy, and he didn’t know how to talk to someone like Blaise and not have that be a problem. Cus, when you liked someone, that was kind of important, right? Like, you couldn’t just, you know, be with someone. Zabini would figure it out pretty damn quick that there was something wrong with him—Probably had already, and then that would ruin things really fast.
God, why couldn’t he just stop thinking about it? Why couldn’t he just stop caring that the boy always looked angrily at him, but not in a bully way but in a love-scorned way? He was pretty sure that was what had happened, the more Neville thought about it. He didn’t know why Zabini might like him, but he had at one point and Neville had done something very wrong—of what he wasn’t certain—and now the boy was just upset.
He hated this. All these feelings. Feeling was so damn difficulty, so aching and annoying and agitating. God, why did he have to feel? It was like pins and needles but in his heart, making him antsy and crazy. It was the only reason Neville was still even thinking of trying to talk to Zabini. Because he couldn’t handle the feeling, and if he talked to the Slytherin, maybe the feeling would finally fucking stop. He needed it to stop.
Neville’s step faltered, his heart slamming in his chest like a brick. He’d been walking down the Slytherin corridors straight from breakfast, hoping he might catch sight of Zabini before the boy went off to Hogsmeade. The voice behind him was not Blaise’s, wasn’t anyone that belonged there. “M-Mason?” Neville whispered, not turning, his eyes squeezed shut as he stood stock still in the hallway.
“Pretty baby. Look at you, so silly in these clothes. And your hair…” A large hand grabbed Neville ash-blond locks, pulling painfully tight as the man stepped up beside him. “Who cut your hair, ickle Nevvy? You look like some ugly boy.”
Neville’s shoulders slumped, something innate inside of him going limp and lax in the painful hold. His cousin pulled his hair harder until he was on tiptoes, the man’s low voice pitched in a sickening sing-song tone, as if Neville were some retarded pet that needed to be talked to slowly and sweetly.
“Did you forget, Nevvy? Did you forget it was time to take you medicine?” Mason asked, wrenching the boy’s hair until Neville finally responded, the blond whimpering in pain. “I made the potion especially for you. Made it pink, even added sugar just the way you like it. Pretty girls like you like sweet things, right, baby Nevvy?”
“Go away,” Neville gasped out, finding his voice and breath at the same time, his chest heaving in fast, frantic beats. “Please, go away.”
Chuckling, Mason kept his grip on Neville’s hair, leaning down until his lips were pressed to the boy’s ear. “I think you missed me. Every good girl misses her boyfriend, and you, pretty baby, are a very good girl. It’s visiting day, Nevvy. We have the whole day to play together.”
“N-No,” Neville whispered, ice already creeping in to his veins, his body tingling numbly in anticipation.
“No? Oh, you know what that means, snookums.” Mason stepped away, pulling Neville by his hair down the corridor, the small boy gasping as he forced his legs to keep up in the painful hold. “You know what ‘no’ means, Nevvy.”
Neville grabbed onto the doorframe, not even feeling it, his fingers numb as he scrabbled uselessly to keep from being pushed into the room Mason had open. Clucking, the man used the heel of his palm to smack the boy on the back, Neville stumbling forward and falling to the ground as the door slammed behind him.
Stepping over to a desk, Mason unzipped his bag, unpacking vials of potions one at a time, humming to himself as he arranged them. Neville stayed on the floor, eyes unseeing as he felt the numbness begin to settle heavier in his body. He called it, praying for the cottony feeling, the one that let him forget, let him not feel. Feeling… It had never done anything for him. Never.
A large hand grabbed his chin, a vial of sickly sweet potion pushed against his lips. “Drink, little baby. So you stay sweet and pretty. You want to be pretty, right Nevvy? All girls want to be pretty.”
Neville did not want to be pretty. He let his head be tilted back, drinking down the potion because if he didn’t Mason would make sure it hurt more than it was going to already. He could feel the familiar effects, the room spinning soon after, his eyesight growing dim around the edges. Oh, he might black out this time…
It was better when he blacked out.
“Pink is such a good color on you,” Mason murmured, rubbing his face against Neville’s while the boy sobbed quietly. “Makes you look so pretty…” He ran the tool over the boy’s pale skin again, drawing another pained hiss and streak of tears from the gasping boy. “You look so pretty with all my marks on you.”
“H-Hurts… hurts so much…” Neville whined, trying to jerk away from each touch of the magical instrument that left lines and blotches of red flesh behind. The wig Mason had made him wear was itchy, the long strawberry colored locks of luscious curls agony as they brushed over his wounded skin.
“I know, baby. It’s supposed to hurt.” With his other hand the man pinched the nipple clamp already too tight on the boy’s left bud, Neville choking as he sobbed in pain. “That’s it… Scream for me, Nevvy. Good girls scream. They scream really loud for it to stop, then they spread their legs nice and wide.”
“No,” Neville hissed out, his body shaking in sweat and pain as another long line of red blossomed on his torso from the tool in Mason’s hand. “I’m not… a girl—Fuck!” He howled, the tip digging into his flesh, his skin singeing as Mason pressed deep in retaliation.
“Baby, don’t make me angry.” He pulled the boy tighter into his lap, Neville’s legs looking longer and more slender under the ruffles of the pink and white dress he was half in. “We’re playing so nice. Don’t make me have to punish you for being bad.”
Neville shook his head frantically, gasping around tears. “I didn’t… didn’t mean it…”
Mason ignored him, forcing Neville’s skirt up higher, hand reaching between the boy’s legs and wrapping painfully tight around his balls. “Good girls don’t talk back… And they sure don’t need this, do they, baby?” He squeezed tighter, Neville whimpering loudly. “Don’t remind me just how easy it would be to make sure you’re really a good girl. I know someone that could cut it off and put a nice hole there.” He smirked, kissing the boy’s cheek. “Just think, Nevvy. One more hole could let you fit one more big dick inside. We could even get the scissors now, just to see.”
“Please… I don’t…” Neville gasped, another line of pain slashing across the sensitive flesh of his inner thigh. Mason was already tearing at his trousers, the zipper loud in the air as the man shifted beneath him. Neville was almost relieved to feel the man’s hard dick pressing against his bare ass, knowing Mason would never risk hurting himself, all instruments and blades set aside whenever his cousin was actually fucking him. It didn’t do anything for the painful clamps attached to his body and too tight rope wrapped around his dick, but when the man finally pushed into him, unstretched and unlubed because good girls didn’t need any of that, things always got blessfully dark and Neville didn’t have to wonder if he’d wake up missing body parts.
“Fuck, baby… Fuck, you sweet, pretty baby… Cry louder… That’s it…”
Gasping, tears streaming, Neville gladly embraced the darkness when it came, giving in to the void.
“I’m telling you, I fucking saw it firsthand. Malfoy kissed Potter. On the mouth. Fucking tongue and everything.”
“Bullshit. You are so full of shit, jackass.”
“I’m serious! And Potter was totally into it. Didn’t slug the git or anything.”
“They were joking—There’s no way Potter is a poof. He might be a dark wizard, but not a poof.”
“What, but you totally believe Malfoy could be?”
“Pshh, yeah. The kid totally takes it up the ass. Have you seen how he dresses? His fucking hair?”
Blaise raised an eyebrow as a group of fifth years went sailing by, snickers raising up, cheeks flushed red from their long walk in the cold. He took another drag of his cigarette, wondering why the fuck Malfoy would have ever outed himself with Potter when his parents were known Death Eaters. He must have some fucking death wish.
It was just starting to get dark, the sun turning the sky a deep red around him. He had stayed behind, not really interested in going out and fucking around the town. He had secretly hoped to run into Neville, the Gryffindor banned for the weekend when Snape once again became the victim of the small blond’s bumblingness. He had checked out a few spots he’d seen Neville hang around, even going so far as to try the library, but the boy hadn’t been there. Annoying as fuck, seeing as Blaise never had a chance to be alone with the boy as it was, Potter always around the fucking corner and Neville quick to drool over him. Whatever. Fuck his life for even thinking of it.
He was halfway to another brooding mood that was about to spiral into a drink session in the dungeons when Blaise caught a familiar scent. He looked up, eyes narrowing into the wind, cigarette hanging limply between his limps. It smelled like the bunny, but it wasn’t, just some teacher out for a stroll. Huffing, Blaise threw what was left of his smoke on the ground, crushing it beneath his heel while staring moodily at the ground. Fuck, he was being an idiot. Neville was completely caught up in Potter and he really needed to get the fuck over it already.
“Zabini, right? Shit, you people grow huge.”
Blaise stilled at the unfamiliar voice, Neville’s scent again trickling on the air. Sex… It was Neville’s sex scent. “You people?” He repeated slowly, eyes caught on pale fingers as the man pulled a cigar from his breast pocket and lit it with a lighter. A lighter because the wizard couldn’t handle a fucking fire spell.
“What, is that not the politically correct turn of phrase these days? Fucking kids—They have you going to school with mudbloods and I’m the asshole for pointing out the fact that the one black kid in the entire castle is a fucking mountain?” Mason shrugged unconcernedly, his eyes flat as Blaise gave a low growl. “Violent too, so I hear. Better watch yourself, kid. I doubt Dumbledore will put up with a savage even if he does love his disgusting mudbloods.”
Blaise was on Mason before either of them fully realized it, the man’s head cracking hard against the side of the stone wall as he was slammed back. Crushing his windpipe one handed, Blaise snarled inches from the brunette’s face, his rage only growing the more he smelled Neville on the twisted man’s flesh and clothes.
Fingers scrabbled uselessly at his hand, Blaise blinking in confusion as he found the man before him turning purple. What would Dumbledore do to him if he killed Mason Pennyworth? What would Azkaban do to him? Exhaling loudly, Blaise dropped the man, Mason falling to the ground in a heap while grasping at his throat for breath. On the wall was a stain of blood, black in the growing dusk.
Fuck… Fuck. Blaise turned back, his anger still boiling, body tight with rage. He pulled the man up by his shoulder, holding him upright while Mason struggled to stand. He might have a concussion. Blaise stared into the man’s dazed eyes, trying to figure out if he had just broken the fucker. It didn’t matter. None of it fucking mattered.
“Pennyworth, if you ever come back to this castle again, I’m going to fucking kill you,” Blaise snarled, snapping his fingers to make sure the man was paying attention. Mason gave a pained groaned, eyes still unfocused. Fuck.
There was no way the man had the power to apparate. Blaise tore at Mason’s coat, searching his pockets until finding the odd item out that had to be a portkey. The other items, soaked in Neville’s fear and sex scent, made Blaise’s stomach turn. Growling, he threw the man to the ground, handing him the rusted tin of catfood. “Get the fuck out of here, Pennyworth. Don’t ever fucking come back.”
Something must have gotten through, pained expression and all, because after a moment of gasping, inarticulate words, Mason twisted out of existence, swept away by the portkey.
Fuck. Blaise stared at where the man had been, blood pooling on the ground beneath him. Head wounds bled a lot; it didn’t necessarily mean shit. And fuck, you couldn’t pull a fucking memory off a corpse, so if Mason did end up dead, it would be really fucking hard to link it to him.
He spelled the blood clean, pocketing his wand after. Fingers trembling, Blaise lit up another cigarette, his mind strangely blank.
What the fuck was Mason Pennyworth doing at Hogwarts? Besides being a racist bigot. Besides reeking of Neville. Sex… He smelled like Neville’s sex.
Where the fuck was Neville?
A growl rumbling through him, Blaise threw his half finished cigarette on the ground, slamming into the castle, his nostrils flaring for traces of Mason’s trail. The deeper he went into the dungeons, the more his stomach twisted in anxiety. There were so many rooms down there, so many fucked up rooms that most proper people didn’t know about but held so much dark shit. The bunny didn’t belong down there, not in the cold, not in the dark.
Blaise stopped short, Mason’s scent ending at a door, Neville’s scent present on the doorframe. He tried the handle but it wouldn’t open. It was one of Snape’s doors, the man having warded certain rooms to keep students out at all costs. How Mason had gotten in was beyond him.
Pressing his ear up to the door, he listened, his wolf senses growing to adapt. Scent was flooding in from beneath the door, strong and definitely Neville’s. He could hear breathing faintly, a wheeze that set his teeth on edge. “Longbottom?” He called, slamming his fist against the door loudly, then pressing his ear to listen. Nothing. No change, no reaction.
The boy was in there. Possibly hurt. Possibly just looking to be alone. Stepping foot to foot in indecision, Blaise eventually slammed on the door again. “Longbottom, just tell me if you’re alright. I’ll fuck off if you want, just fucking let me know you’re not… fuck… Just say something, bunny.”
Still there was no answer, Blaise holding his breath as he listened. Fuck. God fucking damn it. There was only one man that could open the fucking door and Neville would never ever fucking talk to him again if he got him.
Whirling, growl rumbling unrestrained through the air, Blaise sought out his head of house.
Blaise had been very vague as to why he was certain there was someone trapped in one of Snape’s rooms when talking to the Potions Master. The dark eyed man had seemed far more interested in the fact that it was very likely Neville Longbottom, the man’s scowl seemingly ingrained on his face as he pushed himself from his quiet meal alone in his room to follow Blaise.
“Is there a particular reason you are hovering, Mr. Zabini?” Snape drawled as he pulled out his wand and began to spell the door open.
Blaise kept his mouth shut, only to find Snape had stopped, his head of house turning fully from the door to stare at him. “He’s hurt,” Blaise finally grunted out. “Please, Sir, just get him out of there.”
“I should be asking who hurt him and sending you off to the Headmaster,” Snape grumbled, turning back and opening the door with a flourish. “As it is, I’ll be asking Mr. Longbottom just how he got into this room in…” he trailed off, eyes widening as he caught sight of Neville on the floor.
Gaze following, Blaise surged through the door, unable to stop from growling as he took in Neville’s form. He was laid out like some life-sized doll, hands folded beneath the side of his face in a mockery of sleep. Dressed in a ruffled pink dress and wig of curls, the slender boy’s bruised face was dusted with makeup.
Snape shut the door firmly behind him, stepping into the room, his eyes skimming over Neville, then moving to a desk where three vials lay empty. He crossed the space, eying each glass container in turn before cautiously sniffing one.
“Mr. Zabini, I want a name, and I want it now,” he demanded, holding the vial up.
Glancing towards the man and his piercing black stare, Blaise didn’t answer.
“He has been drugged. If the potions are what I think they are, it’s been going on for a while,” Snape continued, his glower growing. “I need to know if I’m to help him.”
“Can you… Does he need help?” Blaise asked, his gaze straying down. Neville looked so peaceful, face smooth of any pain or fear even though the room was full of both scents. Eyes moving, Blaise stooped, pulling the wig from the boy’s head, hissing as purple and red welts were revealed beneath the long locks. “Fuck, Neville, what the fuck did he do to you?”
“The name, Mr. Zabini.” Snape crouched down beside him, long fingers turning Neville’s face to reveal a large bruise on the hidden side. “I’ll need to get Pomfrey. As it is, there is little to be done to reverse the potions, only treat the symptoms after—and that’s only if the potions were made correctly. I must know who did this.” He forced Blaise to meet his eye. “Mr. Longbottom is facing permanent brain damage, stunted growth, possibly episodic violent mood swings and blackouts. These are serious charges and I need the name of the culprit.”
His heart racing at the list of symptoms, Blaise couldn’t help but think of the Pennyworth brothers. Had Mason done that to them? Had the man broken his own siblings, and then done the same to Neville? Why? Neville… Neville had never done a bad thing to anyone. The little bunny was the damn sweetest boy Blaise had ever known, and that was while being tortured by some sick fuck.
“Pennyworth,” Blaise finally said, raising his head. “Mason Pennyworth, his cousin.” He’d probably hate him for telling. Neville would probably hate him forever for telling his secret and to Snape of all people. But he had to. If it helped the boy, Blaise would do just about anything, no matter how much it was bound to hurt.
Nodding at the name, Snape stood, spelling up a stretcher. “Believe it or not, that might actually be good news. He was a star pupil. Troubled, but skilled. If his potion work is still at that level, Longbottom’s chances are much higher. I’ll have Dumbledore send someone out to check the grounds. The authorities may have to be called in.”
Blaise bit his lip, not saying a word. Mason was gone, wounded, possibly beyond repair. “Sir… Can we change him first? Please. He… He wouldn’t want to be seen like this.”
He almost thought Snape might refuse, knowing how much the man clashed with Longbottom in the classroom. But Snape just bowed his head, pulling the black robe off his back and covering the boy with it carefully on the floating stretcher. “Off with you, Zabini. I don’t want any rumors about this. These sorts of—”
“I’m going with,” Blaise said stubbornly, meeting his head of house’s piercing gaze again. “I’m not leaving him alone like this, so don’t bother asking.” He stepped ahead, getting the door before Snape could refuse. He wasn’t going to leave Neville. He was going to find out everything that had happened to the boy and make sure it never happened again.
Neville wasn’t really sure why he was in the hospital wing. He did know it meant Madame Pomfrey would be fussing over him for a bit, and seeing as he had very few people he let mother him, he didn’t mind that so much.
He wrinkled his nose, a familiar chalky scent tickling at his nostrils. He swiped at his face, groaning when he found a streak of flesh colored powder and pink lipstick on his hand. “Crap,” he mumbled, hissing as he scrubbed at his bruised flesh in the hopes of removing the makeup before anyone saw. Only to yelp, his hand pulled away abruptly, violet jewel eyes glaring down at him. “Z-Zabini?”
“I got you a wet cloth. Pomfrey says any kind of spell can mess up your recovery,” Blaise said abruptly, handing the confused boy a facecloth. He continued to hover over Neville’s hospital bed, staring down at the boy intently.
Lashes downcast, Neville carefully washed his face while trying to remember what had happened and why Blaise would be there. He had wanted to see Zabini, had wanted to apologize for being, well, weird and have the boy not be so angry. Even now Blaise seemed very angry at him. But Neville was washing makeup off his face and there was only ever one reason for that.
Neville peeked around the room, sitting up slowly, his body aching slightly, everything feeling kind of dizzy. He forced himself to sit up, needing to make sure Mason wasn’t there, wasn’t talking to Pomfrey or a teacher and saying how Neville should come live with him. His cousins visits were bad enough—Living with the man would be monstrous.
He couldn’t see past Blaise, the muscular boy far from transparent as Neville swayed and tried to look around him. He was feeling really dizzy, the room spinning and Neville falling sideways and nearly falling back to the bed. “Oh…”
“Stop wiggling, bunny. You’re going to hurt yourself,” Blaise insisted, steadying the boy by his shoulder. His hand was very hot on Neville’s skin, the thin hospital robes doing very little to cover him.
“Zabini, I just… I need to make sure he’s not here,” Neville whispered, his voice sounding strangely hoarse in his ears.
“No one’s here,” Blaise assured him, moving aside so Neville could see the room clearly. “And if that fucker ever comes back here, I’m going to make sure he bleeds out. I swear. I’ll fucking kill him.”
Neville blinked, focusing on the boy for the first time. Not only did Blaise look murderous, but there was something almost sad in his eyes. “What… What are you doing here?” Neville finally asked, feeling uncomfortable the longer Blaise stared at him.
Pursing his lips, Blaise took a step back, shrugging awkwardly as he looked around the room. “I just wanted to make sure you were okay. I found you in that room and I—”
Neville winced, covering his eyes with his hand. “Please tell me no one else saw.” Mason used to take pictures, which was so bad already. But if his classmates had seen him like that—in that stupid dress and horrible wig—god, he should just jump off the astronomy tower and get it over with.
“No one else,” Blaise said quickly, ducking his head. “No other kids, anyways. And no one is going to tell.”
Neville nodded dumbly, licking his dry lips. Was he supposed to say something to Zabini? Like, explain or some shit? He really didn’t want to do that. He really didn’t even want to fucking think about it, nevermind talk about it.
“Listen, uh, Longbottom… If you, um, want some sort of help…”
Neville wondered if pulling the blankets over his head would be in poor taste. He did it anyways, Blaise trailing off with a cough.
“I meant around school. With the jerks that pick on you,” Blaise added quietly, leaning down over the Neville shaped tent. “I guess what I’m saying is, whether you really want me to or not, I’m going to kick the crap out of anyone that bothers you… So, you should probably know that.”
It was very hot under the blankets, Neville’s breath heating up the small space quickly. He cautiously lifted the edge, his hair all static as he peeked out at Blaise. “What do you want, Zabini?”
“Nothing,” Blaise said gruffly, his gaze intent on Neville’s flushed face. “I’m just tired of seeing people beat on you. You don’t have to do anything, okay? I mean, if you want to like, I dunno, talk to me once in a while… Shit, whatever. You don’t have to do anything.” Why did Neville have to look so ridiculously adorable, his hair sticking up and cheeks red? It was very hard for Blaise to be as aloof as he had planned when the boy just kept being so cute.
“Did you want to… um… be my friend?” Neville asked, his voice a mix of hope and wariness as he pulled the blanket down to his shoulders.
Blaise had very little interest in being Neville’s friend without the word ‘boy’ firmly planted in front of it. But it was definitely a start in the right direction and he wasn’t about to let the opportunity slip. “Yeah,” he finally said, realizing he was standing there not talking again. “Okay.”
“Oh.” biting his lower lip, Neville gave a distracted nod while pushing his bangs back over his forehead. “Okay.” Neville really didn’t have any friends, and he wasn’t really sure what it meant to be friends with someone, a Slytherin at that. “Um, you know I’m like, a total klutz, right? And I can’t do shit for magic, and, well, yeah, I get my ass kicked like every day… You really probably don’t want someone like me for a friend…” He trailed off, Blaise’s sudden growl making him uncomfortable. “Or maybe you do?”
“I want to be your friend, bunny. For real,” Blaise said, leaning over the bed and looking earnest, if not extremely intense. “See, I have this bad habit of hitting people when I get angry, and I’m really, well, mean at times and everyone is scared of me. But I bet if I had a friend like you, people would see that I wasn’t such a bad guy, right?”
Blinking, Neville nodded slowly. “I guess. I… I don’t think you’re very mean, Zabini. You’re, well, really strong, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen you do anything really bad.”
Blaise shrugged, not willing to speak a list of all the ways he was a total asshole at times. He wanted Neville to like him, not run for the hills. And he knew when it came to the bunny, he would never, ever be anything but as nice as possible. “So it’s settled, then? Friends?”
Neville gave another nod, smiling haphazardly.
Blaise was wondering if he could possibly convince Neville into thinking it was totally okay for friends to kiss when Snape suddenly walked into the room, something frothing blue smoke in his hand. Neville immediately blanched, reaching for his blanket as if he was going to hide underneath it again. Blaise grabbed the edge, giving the boy an encouraging smile that he had a feeling must have been too scary looking. Still, Neville remained in view even as he stared warily at the approaching professor.
“Mr. Longbottom, I need you to drink this,” Snape said sharply, holding the bubbling vial out.
Staring at the blue potion that smelled rather awful, Neville let his gaze rise to Snape’s. “What is it?” Mason might have been able to force him to drink a million terrible potions but as long as Professor Snape worked for Dumbledore, Neville was pretty sure the man couldn’t hurt him in the same way.
“It is a treatment to help counteract what you were dosed with earlier today,” Snape said flatly, his eyes glancing over to where Blaise was standing. “It is imperative that you take it as soon as possible.”
“What… what did he, uh…?” Neville couldn’t quite get the words out, feeling very small all of a sudden. He tried not to think about Mason, tried not to wonder just what all those potions were doing to him. They made him numb, well, one of them did. The other ones he didn’t know what they did, just that Mason made him drink them, and got angry if he tried to spit it out.
“Mr. Longbottom, you have been subjected to a form of the ‘eternal youth’ potion.” Snape pushed the vial into Neville’s hand, the blond automatically grasping it. “It is not a potion well known, the side effects deemed not worth the risk of the small gains. Someone has been working very hard to keep you young, and given the time in your development, it could have permanent mental and physical consequences. This potion is to help with that, but I’m afraid there is little to be done for the ones you have consumed in the past. Do you remember when you were first given the potion?”
Neville was having a really hard time following what Professor Snape was saying. “Are you… Am I not going to grow any more?”
By Snape’s expression, the man didn’t know. “It’s a rare potion, Mr. Longbottom, and I have never heard of it being used in such a way. All we can do is try and counteract what we can and possibly see if other measures must be taken in the future. Drink the potion… Please.”
It was the please that did it, Neville so shocked to hear such a word come out of his professor’s mouth he had to wonder if he was dreaming. He drank the potions down, shuddering in disgust from the flavor. It was almost a relief—Potions weren’t supposed to taste good. They were dangerous and sometimes deadly and they should never taste like candy.
“How do you feel?” Blaise asked, watching Neville’s face closely as Snape took the empty vial back. Neville looked kind of sick, his face paling, eyes squeezed shut tight.
“Oh no…” Neville whimpered, pretty sure he was going to throw up. He fought the feeling as long as he could, waves of heat and cold moving through him in sickening lurches. “Crap, crap, I think…”
Neville didn’t throw up. Instead he started to shrink, his body folding in on itself until he was a huddled mound under the blankets.
Hissing in surprise, Snape reached across the bed, pulling the blankets away with a snap to reveal a dusty colored coyote. “Animagus! The boy is a damn animagus and I just—Blast! I need Pomfrey, now.”
Blaise grabbed his professor’s arm, his eyes wide. “Sir, you can’t tell. He’ll get in trouble.”
“Mr. Zabini, I may have just poisoned him! Get your priorities…” They both winced, turning when Neville’s coyote form began hacking up the blue potion all over the bedding. Snape’s expression growing more dour by the moment as his very well-made remedy was regurgitated, he eventually gave a great sigh. “Is there a particular reason you are not surprised to see Mr. Longbottom turn into a coyote?” He asked his student pointedly.
“I may have known,” Blaise muttered.
“Is this how you also happened to know he was in a sealed room?” The man pressed when Blaise refused to meet his eye.
“For the love of—You know how serious an offense this is, Mr. Zabini. You have a sordid family history of shape-shifters going wrong because of taking shortcuts.”
Blaise rolled his eyes. “My father taught me. My parents know, and that’s all that matters.”
“And Mr. Longbottom’s? Did you lead him down such a rocky road as well when—”
“I have nothing to do with Longbottom. Didn’t even know he was one too until a little while ago.” That Neville didn’t turn into a bunny was still a shock to Blaise as it was. “Please, Sir. He has enough problems as it is. Could you just, like, pretend you didn’t see any of this?”
Stilling, his long fingers tapping on his leg, Snape gave the two boys a calculating look. “We will speak of this when he is well.”
Blaise scowled, knowing what that meant. He wasn’t sure what the hell Snape would want, but the man did not keep secrets or do much of anything, for that matter, for free. “Fine,” he grunted out.
If it kept Neville from getting into anymore trouble or having to deal with the humiliation of the entire world knowing what Mason had done to the boy, Blaise would do it. Hopefully the slender blond would be grateful for it… Once he stopped throwing up.