"I will have none other, Mr Longbottom."
Neville stood, his hands still covered in dirt, and gaped at Snape. "You're serious?"
"Indeed. Your reputation preceeds you. I understand that many of my competitors use you exclusively, and I have not been pleased by my own sources of late."
"But . . . wouldn't you rather do it yourself? Haven't you always?"
Snape snorted. "My interests have grown significantly, yet I've not been able to secure reliable assistance for my needs. I find that I'm no longer able to do for myself as I have in the past."
Neville brushed his hands on his trousers, still a bit too overwhelmed by Snape's request to think of using a cleaning spell, and offered the man his hand. "Then yeah, yes, of course. I'd be happy to become your—"
"You don't seem happy, Mr Longbottom," Snape replied suspiciously, though he did shake Neville's hand.
"Er, it's just that, well, it's me. You've never liked me."
The grip on his hand tightened.
"Mr Longbottom, don't be ridiculous. I have neither liked nor disliked you in the past, no matter your frustrating efforts in my classroom—and it would seem, if reports are to be believed, that you've got past your formative difficulties. I shall require a thorough inspection, however, before signing any agreement with you."
Now Neville snorted. "Wouldn't have it any other way, sir, but you know," he continued, withdrawing his hand in what he hoped wasn't a furtive manner, "it did seem like you hated me at Hogwarts. I wasn't the only one who thought so, either."
"Your grandmother was quite clear from the moment you arrived that I was to do all in my power to turn you into a 'proper wizard', a proper wizard, obviously, being one who knew his way around a cauldron."
"Gran told you to torture me?"
"After what you've learned of torture, do you truly compare my actions towards you with—"
"No! No, I suppose I don't, sir. Right. Uh, you wanted to see my stores?"
"And your gardens, greenhouses, and preparation facilities, as well. I won't have improperly grown or prepared ingredients sold to my concern."
"There's a reason your competitors come to me, you know," Neville said, grinning as he drew himself up proudly.
"I'm well aware of that, boy, or I wouldn't be here, and thank you for not cringing."
Rather pleased with himself, Neville took Snape on a tour of his place of business, amazed to find himself thinking, Thanks for teaching me how not to, you old git.
Being the sole supplier of Prince and Son's Apothecaries was going to do wonders for his bottom line.
Upon finalising the details of their arrangement, Neville said, "Please give my best to your wife, sir," knowing as he did that it was she to whom he owed his present good fortune.
"Mrs Snape always receives the best of everything, Longbottom."
And that's a bottom line that doesn't bear thinking of, Neville thought, firmly refusing to consider the implications of Snape's words.
He still couldn't believe Luna'd married the man—but, come to think of it, it wasn't such a surprise to know that Gran had set Snape on him at school, the daft old bird.
Neville spent the rest of his afternoon preparing Snape's first order and thinking fondly of his grandmother, something he found easier to do, now that he'd got past his "cringing" stage.