fox_confessor: (Moony)
fox_confessor ([personal profile] fox_confessor) wrote2014-01-10 09:05 pm

Fic: How Does Your Garden Grow (HP: Neville Longbottom and Pomona Sprout)

Title: How Does Your Garden Grow
Author: [ profile] escribo
Rating: G
Word Count:1856
Characters and/or Pairings: Pomona Sprout, Neville Longbottom
Summary: Neville stops by to visit with Pomona
Warnings: None
Disclaimer: These characters belong to J.K. Rowling
Author's Notes: Thanks to [ profile] pavlablack for the help. Written for the 2013 [ profile] hoggywartyxmas fest.

From nearly the moment Pomona began teaching, she'd daydreamed about retiring. It wasn't that she didn't like her job but she'd always planned to travel again, to go back to the places she'd visited and loved before she'd settled down to a career of grading essays and helping first years learn to shape alihotsy bushes. She definitely hadn't planned to teach as long as she had but she loved Hogwarts and her students.

So in the end, when the time had come to leave, it had surprised everyone, including her, that she hadn't gone far at all. A cottage in the woods, forbidden or not, had filled her thoughts for so long after the dark days of the war that when she finally held the key in her hand, she hadn't known quite what to do. It was finally a home of her own—better still, a garden of her own.

She sat there now, a newly planted Welwitschia mirabilis settling into the soil that she'd patted around its roots. In a few years' time, it would be nearly six feet tall and ready for harvest, its pods used as a remedy for dragon pox and its leaves for a nice stew. She was sure almost no one else but her would say her garden was beautiful but she thought it was wonderful, filled with things that would be good to eat or useful in some other way. Her mother hadn't much use for things that were purely decorative and neither did Pomona. Even the roses that bordered her fence--gorgeous things with fat, yellow blossoms—would be allowed to go to fruit and eventually dried for tisane or turned into palinka to enjoy on Hogmanay.

She looked to them now, humming along with the bees that were busy amongst their buds, and smiled broadly when she spotted one of the only other people in the world who would likely find her garden quite perfect whistling his way through the trees. Pomona struggled to her feet, cursing the arthritis in her knees that made getting up harder sometimes, and plucked off her patched up hat to wave him along the path.

"There's the Longbottom boy," she called, laughing when he did. "Come tell me how your first day was, Neville. Was it full of Slytherins who complained about getting their hands dirty or lovely Hufflepuffs who begged to be allowed a patch of earth to have their own pumpkin patch?"

"Neither, I'm afraid. Ravenclaws and Gryffindors. First years tomorrow, though, so I'll have a bit of everyone."

Neville leaned against Pomona's garden gate, a tall, handsome boy—man, now, she supposed, dressed in sturdy, brown work robes and a good pair of boots. Out for a ramble, as she called them, she'd guess, to find unusual mushrooms or plants to show his class. She had often done that herself. He had a leather bound notebook in his hand, his wand tucked into his waistband, and looked very much like his mother had, good natured and jolly, and she loved him all the more for it.

"I don't suppose you'd like a cup of tea before you go on your way."

"You know, I really would actually. I came out this way hoping to be invited. I've missed our talks."

"I have, too, though I suppose if I had a pretty lass in the village like you do, then I'd likely find myself at Madame Puddifoot's more often than the Forbidden Forest." Pomona laughed cheerfully when Neville blushed at the mention of Hannah Abbott, his fiancée since the summer before, though his own deep laughter joined hers easily enough. "Come, tell me about your day. I'll put the kettle on."

"I can't lie. It was hard—much harder than I expected," Neville said once they were sat at Pomona's scarred table in her small kitchen, a plate of biscuits between them, and he'd been appropriately complimentary of her potted Ocimum basilicum and made some very good recommendations for a pruning charm that would tame her Sanguisorba minor.

"Harder than chasing down Death Eaters?"


"So do you regret letting Minerva talk you into taking the post?"

"Not a bit," he said, his hands curled around his cup. For a moment, he swished the dregs and then studied them carefully though she knew he didn't believe in divination any more than she did. "I was ready for the war to be well and truly over, if you know what I mean."

"I do," Pomona said, and she really did. The war had been hard for all witches and wizards but Neville, she knew, had been affected more than most, nearly as much as Harry Potter himself. Neville had been very brave, and she had been proud to fight alongside him during the Battle of Hogwarts, and prouder still when he'd joined the Aurors in making sure that evil never returned. He'd given most of his life to the cause that had killed or injured so many that they loved but it was time—well past time—for Neville to begin living his own life.

They sat quietly for a few moments, sipping their tea, lost to their own thoughts even if their grief was shared. Finally, Neville shook his head and covered her hand, red and rough as it was, with his own and gave it a squeeze.

"So, this morning I uprooted half a dozen puffapods," he said, breaking the silence, and somehow finding his good cheer again as he continued to tell about his day. "Stepped into a bucket of mooncalf dung, and sprayed my third years with bubotuber pus and had to spend an hour vanishing boils. Tell me that's perfectly normal for a first year teacher."

"Absolutely. I'd be embarrassed to tell you of the trouble I caused for myself that first year."

"I knew I'd be in good company. I always am with you. Tell me about your first year. I think it may help me get to my second."

"It was… lonely. I was determined to be a good teacher, which I thought meant strict." Pomona stood to collect the kettle again and stopped to caress the leaf of her fledgling fanged geranium. It purred and nipped at her finger, and she gave it a treat from the jar on the window sill before rejoining Neville at the table. "My students hated me."

"I can't imagine that."

"I yelled all the time."

"You never yelled at us."

"I learned not to," she said as she poured the hot water over the fresh tea. "I learned that it hurt more than it helped."

"What else did you learn that first year?"

"Looking to save yourself some trouble?"

"I can try."

Pomona smiled gently at Neville over the pot of tea as it brewed, breathing in deeply the scent of sea buckthorn, lavender, and sage. That first day had been a long time ago but she still remembered the names of her students, the lesson she'd carefully planned and taught, the letter she'd written to her sister in the Isle of Man telling of her room, her office, of the girl who'd brought her jar of ailing Wolffia angusta to Pomona to be nursed back to health. It definitely hadn't been all bad.

"You'll be your own teacher, Neville, and I suspect you'll be good at it. I can give you a bit of advice from an old lady, if you like."

"I hardly think you're old, professor."

"Pomona, please, for we shall be very good friends, I think, and friends should call each other by name."

"I'd like that. I'd like the advice, too, if you're willing to give it."

Pomona nodded and sat back in her chair, considering him. "Do you remember your first day in Herbology," she began and smiled at the memory of his big eyes and nervous hands. "As a student, I mean."

"I'd had Potions that morning, and it'd gone about as well as you could expect. I don't think there was a Gryffindor in my year that Professor Snape liked."

"His was a tough row to hoe."

"I know that now, of course. At eleven, he terrified me. I wanted to go home. I missed my Gram. I still do." Neville shook his head and bit his lip over the thought of Augusta, who had recently passed away, though not before she'd seen her grandson accept the position at Hogwarts.

"She was very proud of you. We all are."

"She liked you very much, too. Spoke very highly of you."

"As well she should have. Your grandmother stole my boyfriend to the Yule Ball in sixth year, did you know? And I didn't complain once."

"No. Grandmother?"

Pomona hummed, sipping from her cup before she put it down, emptied, onto the table and tapped her knuckles next to it twice. "Dull as mud, he was, I was glad to be shot of him. My father had high hopes of marrying me off to some bland dishcloth destined for Ministry work before I could have a chance to take off on my adventures, as he called them. Augusta knew it. Stole every one of the unlucky fellows—at this time, Neville, you have to understand, us witches were expected to settle down."

"And you didn't want to."

"Heavens no! What would I have done with a husband? Once I left school, I went to see the Ji Chang Yuan in China, and walked the paths of the Kuskovo Garden in Russia where the giants have tilled the earth in great furrows. I traveled to the deserts in Australia and the rainforests in the Amazon. There's not a growing thing I didn't want to see. That's where my love was, and no one could compete with that. Your grandmother helped me escape, and I've never forgotten that."

"But you came back to teach."

"I did, and I never regretted it, not for a moment. Especially not when I had a chance to teach a young boy straight out of Potions and terrified of his own shadow, clutching a toad, even when they were out of fashion by then."

"Trevor," Neville said, grinning.

"No, I never regretted coming back to teach or for staying as long as I did. Students are like plants, Neville. Plant them in good soil, weed them ruthlessly, and give them plenty of sunlight and water. They'll thrive." Pomona drew back and eyed Neville openly—frankly. He definitely looked different than that eleven year old boy she'd first met. "You certainly did."

It was late by the time Pomona saw Neville off back to the school with his pockets full of tea cakes, his hands cradling a potted Hydnora africana, and his ramble long forgotten. She watched him from the garden gate, waving him off with her patched hat, before turning back to her cottage. For the first time since she'd left her post in the Hogwarts greenhouses, she didn't worry over the students she'd left or those who were still yet to come. Neville would tend them well, she knew, and she could finally rest.