Irretitus Amor by Jeograph
Summary: ***Winner of the Most Humorous and the People's Choice Award in the Detention Challenge (2023-1)*** There is a little known tradition at Hogwarts that occurs once every four years. It has become a sort of a special event of the professors as it involves giving detention specifically to student couples, and creates an opportunity for the professors to wager on certain outcomes. Four years ago the event was postponed due to activity involving the Chamber of Secrets. This year however there is nothing to hold it back. Along with five other couples, Harry and Ginny are caught up in this special event and its arbitrary detention.
Categories: SIYE Challenges new, The Detention Challenge (2023-1)
Chapter 1: Chapter 1: Nominations Please
Chapter 2: Chapter 2: Fallacious Finger-pointing
Chapter 3: Chapter 3 - Detention
Chapter 4: Chapter 4 - Findings & Futures
Chapter 1: Chapter 1: Nominations PleaseIrretitus Amor: Part One
Professor Pomona Sprout was whistling merrily as she sauntered her way to the Great Hall for breakfast, on the beautiful, sunny morning of Monday, June sixteenth, nineteen hundred and ninety-seven.
“Lovely morning children,” she said as she passed a group of first-years eyeing the House Point Hourglasses. The fact that she had startled them was lost on her as she proceeded to the staffroom past the Gargoyles flanking its entrance. It was her custom to stop by the staffroom each morning to check for any notices. It had been some years since she had received anything at all in her staff box, still routine was the backbone of life and she checked her staff box each morning before breakfast with strict regularity. Finding no notices, she exited the staffroom and crossed the Main Entrance to the Great Hall. She jauntily pulled open the doors and practically skipped her way down the center aisle. At the head of the aisle, she crossed diagonally to the side steps to reach the raised teachers’ dais, where the long High Table stood.
She was pleased to see the usual Professors already gathered for breakfast. Madam Pomfrey and the Librarian, Madam Pince were seated in their seats nearest the end and they greeted her with bright smiles as she acknowledged them with a delighted grin. She resumed whistling an early Madame Bletchley tune, as she nodded greetings to Professor Flitwick, Professor Sinistra, and Professor Vector. As she reached her normal seat next to Deputy Head, Minerva McGonagall, she gave a cheerful wave to Professors Babbling, Slughorn, Burbage, and Madam Hooch, who were all seated further down the table.
“You seem in unusually bright spirits this morning, Pomona,” Professor McGonagall said, as the Herbology Professor took her seat and began filling her plate from nearby breakfast platters.
“Indeed, it is a beautiful morning isn’t it,” Professor Sprout replied, happily.
Professor McGonagall glanced out upon the smattering of early-rising students who typically took their meal this soon during breakfast hours. On any given Monday only the most diligent students, or those who were naturally early risers, were present at this time, approaching half-seven, and more than an hour into the breakfast offering. As usual, none of the students seemed all that enamored of the bright sunny morning outside the castle. She would have described them on the whole as sluggish at best. There were, of course, a few notable exceptions. She met the eye of Harry Potter at the Gryffindor table and nodded congenially as he did the same.
“I am not certain many of our charges would agree with you, but I am pleased you are beginning your day so enthusiastically,” Professor McGonagall said, “May I inquire as to what has put you in this happy mood?”
Pomona Sprout leaned in conspiratorially and whispered. “The seeds have sprouted.”
“Goodness, Pomona,” Professor McGonagall said. “I dare say, that is a daily occurrence in the greenhouses. Would you care to be a little more specific?”
Professor Sprout grinned wide and said, a bit more loudly than she intended, “The seeds have sprouted in greenhouse nine.” She realized immediately just how loudly she’d spoken as a chain of urgent whispers suddenly broke in both directions along the staff table.
“Greenhouse nine you say?” the Deputy Headmistress asked more of herself than Professor Sprout. “Goodness, has it been four years already?”
“Indeed, it has.” Professor Sprout responded, punctuating her reply by shoving a large forkful of eggs into her mouth and nodding.
“How much time do we have?” Professor McGonagall asked as Professor Sprout swallowed her eggs.
“I asked Aurora nearly a month ago to confirm her posted schedule of astrological events,” Professor Sprout began. “She confirmed that this month’s full moon cycle begins in two days with the actual full moon presenting on Friday at twenty-one hours, eight minutes and forty-eight seconds.”
“Oh, dear,” Professor McGonagall declared, “We haven’t much time than have we?”
Harry couldn’t remember a time in his life when he’d been happier. It was as though his destined life had been put on hold, and for a glorious month, he’d been allowed to have someone else’s. A different life, a magnificent life of joy and happiness, and it was all because of Ginny. He squeezed her hand as they walked together and she gently squeezed back. They had been a couple for just over four weeks, yet everything with Ginny was easy, felt complete and so, so right.
Hermione had seemed to think it inevitable, and Ron had quickly come around to the idea that his sister and his best mate were a good match. Harry couldn’t help but smile.
He had always been an early riser. Perhaps it was just training and habit formed by years of being pressed into breakfast kitchen duty by Aunt Petunia, but he always seemed to naturally wake around half-five, and he was glad of it as it had, at Hogwarts, provided time for him to catch up on his revising.
Ginny, was a different story; she was not nearly as bad as Ron, but she liked to sleep, and getting up early in the morning was not a habit she had acquired in the Weasley household. Still, for the last month, she had met Harry in the common room by six every morning and they had been able to take a walk together either before or after breakfast.
This morning had been so bright, sunny, and warm, that their walk had to come before breakfast.
They had made their way down to the lake shore, like usual, wandered along the footpaths till they reached the stone stairs, and then made their way back up to the castle, choosing to go the long way around the greenhouses, rather than through the courtyard.
As they came toward the greenhouses there had been a clatter of one of the greenhouse doors and they had stopped, just to see what might happen.
Professor Sprout emerged from the door of greenhouse eight, which was commonly believed to be nothing more than a tool and supplies shed for the other seven greenhouses. They would have called a greeting to the usually friendly professor, but as she stepped out there was a strange lilt to her gait and she had paused to do an excited little dance there at the cobblestone entrance.
Ginny giggled lightly. “My goodness, I wonder what has gotten into her?”
“I don’t know,” Harry said, genuinely perplexed by the professor’s behavior.
Professor Sprout hadn’t turned, and so didn’t notice them, but began quickly along the path toward the castle at a happy clip, whistling as she went.
“Funny,” Harry said. “But clearly something good must have happened to her.”
“And why not?” Ginny responded. “It is a glorious morning; why shouldn’t good things be happening?” She squeezed Harry’s hand again.
They gave the Professor a beat to get well ahead of them and made their way following her, along the path toward the castle and the breakfast service.
They arrived at the Entrance Hall in time to see the first-years startled by the enthusiastic Professor. Their curiosities had been piqued by the odd behavior so as Professor Sprout turned toward the staffroom, they entered the Great Hall and quickly made their way to join Ron and Hermione who were already eating in their usual spots.
“Nice walk?” Hermione asked as they approached. She didn’t need an answer as it was written clearly across their faces. But there was something else in Harry’s expression, a look of intrigue and curiosity that she knew well. He was watching the entrance behind him.
“We just saw the funniest thing,” Ginny said as she sat, pulling Harry into the space next to her on the bench.
“What’s happening?” Ron asked after a heavy gulp of juice.
“Professor Sprout is extremely happy about something. We saw her doing a sort of a happy jig as she came out of greenhouse eight and headed up to the castle,” Harry said.
“She’s always a pretty happy professor, but this was a bit unusual,” Ginny added. “She was whistling a happy tune all the way to the castle. One of those old songs Mom loves when it comes on the wireless.”
Just then the main doors opened and Professor Sprout entered. She practically floated down the main aisle, intent on reaching the High Table. Coming behind the seated staff, she made her way enthusiastically to her spot next to Professor McGonagall.
They watched curiously as the two professors seemed to exchange greetings.
Professor McGonagall surveyed the student tables and when her eye met Harry’s she smiled and nodded by way of acknowledgment. Harry nodded back.
The two professors then engaged in conversation.
Harry and the others were close enough to the staff table to overhear when Professor Sprout declared, “The seeds have sprouted in greenhouse nine.”
“There, you see,” Ron said. “She’s excited about something she’s growing. Makes perfect sense. Probably something dangerous and difficult to grow.” He shoveled more eggs and sausage into his mouth and packed it in with a bite of toast.
“No, there is something more going on,” Hermione said. “Look at the way the other professors are reacting.”
There was a wave of whispering chatter moving outward from the center among those professors who were present.
For the rest of their breakfast, the four kept a quiet eye on the professors. Some seemed to hastily finish their meals and quickly depart, while others seemed to be observing the students with unusual attention. Professor Vector even appeared to be taking notes on a scroll as she scanned the room.
Finally, when all but Ron had finished eating and they felt they had lingered much longer than normal, Hermione said. “I am certain, something is going on. The professors are behaving oddly, but not oddly enough to cause alarm.”
“Agreed,” Harry said.
“It may just be something that concerns the staff, but not the students,” Ginny suggested. “Like a wedding or a birth, or maybe Sprout is going to be published in Magical Botany Today. Something like that might be a fire under other Professors to set some new goals.”
“Whatever it is, I’m sure we’ll find out about it in the next couple of days,” Ron said as he stood up from his spot at the table. “And, if we don’t, then it was nothing, to begin with.”
Whatever it had been certainly seemed to grow far less important as the day progressed.
On Tuesday, the staffroom was buzzing with activity as Dumbledore entered. It seemed as though every Hogwarts Professor at the school was present. “Who is supervising lunch with the students?” he asked as he stepped next to Minerva McGonagall.
“Headmaster,” McGonagall said, “lovely of you to join us. I believe Professor Hagrid is eating lunch in the Great Hall at this hour.”
“Never one to get much involved in the world of flora, our Hagrid,” Dumbledore said. “Unless it is food for any of his fauna.”
“Not much for romance either,” McGonagall added. “Nevertheless, he was happy to sit a long lunch today so that others could indulge in our little diversion.”
“Indeed,” Dumbledore responded, looking around.
One whole side wall of the room was taken up by a huge blackboard. On the far left of the blackboard, in neatly handwritten text, categorized as cross-house, and in-house, were the names of every known student couple presently at Hogwarts.
The first column was cross-house where there were listed all the student couples who came from different houses. This was the longest list with a total of seventeen couples. The in-house category was divided into four columns by house. Gryffindor house listed six couples; Hufflepuff, five; Ravenclaw, five; and Slytherin, eight.
“This is quite a list of couples this year,” Dumbledore noted. “I confess I have not been paying as close attention to this aspect of our institution as I have in years past. I am curious how is it that Hermione Granger and Ronald Weasley got listed as a couple? Or has something happened of which I am unaware?”
“No, Albus, nothing has happened,” McGonagall explained. “Poppy Pomfrey insisted we list them as a couple based on the displays witnessed during Mr. Weasley’s recent stay in hospital. She says the way he called for Hermione, and the way she stayed at his side, show unusual devotion and blossoming love.”
“Ah,” Dumbledore nodded. “The idea being that even if they don’t know it yet, Pomona’s seedlings would still be able to tell.”
“Exactly,” McGonagall confirmed. “Unfortunately, there are only six planting beds, so I find it unlikely that they will survive beyond the pruning round.”
“Standard rules apply?” Dumbledore asked.
“As always,” McGonagall confirmed. “No couples are allowed involving anyone younger than fifth-year. All staff members are allowed to add to the couples list, which is open to discussion and debate. That is where we are right now. Then, each head of house is allowed to nominate one couple involving a member of their house. This frequently results in couples where both parties are from their house, but that is of course not a requirement. As Headmaster, you are allowed to offer a nomination, if you choose, though, if memory serves, you have never elected to do so. Whereupon the additional couple or couples, are chosen by the remaining staff, in a straight ballot, the two couples receiving the most votes will be chosen.”
“Thank you for such a concise review of the rules, Minerva,” Dumbledore said.
“Well, as your Deputy Head, I could not chance you ever thinking that I have been lax in my duties,” McGonagall stated.
Just then Professor Sprout stepped up to a podium in front of the blackboard wall, where there was a gavel and block. She picked up the gavel and rapped it twice against the block causing the room to fall silent.
“Okay, thank you, everyone, for your suggestions, we have had all yesterday and this morning to compile the list of young couples here at Hogwarts,” Pomona began. “I am now inclined to halt discussion on the list of couples so that we can proceed with nominations. Let us remember that I have room for six couples, and we will need to arrange for members of the elected couples to be given detention, which is often the most difficult part of the project.”
Filius Flitwick had climbed up onto a chair and now he stepped up onto a table so that he could address his colleagues. “In the interest of narrowing the list, I would like to propose that any couples that have not been dating longer than six months, be stricken.”
“I do not agree!” Poppy Pomfrey objected. “What does the length of their dating have to do with anything? The point here is to pick couples who we think may truly be in love, and the newness of any relationship is not necessarily a measure of what the future may hold. I myself have proposed a couple on the list who are not technically even a couple, yet their observable behavior leads me to conclude that they someday will be, and a successful pairing at that.”
“At this point, the decision to nominate a given couple rests with each Head of House,” Pomona reminded her colleagues. “That is the standing tradition established on the premise that these professors are most actively observing their students. Without objection, I believe that we can move forward without any further editing of the established list.” There was a short pause during which there seemed to be no objection. “Very good, it seems we are agreed, so I call upon Deputy Head and Head of House Gryffindor, Professor Minerva McGonagall to make our first nomination.”
All eyes turned to Minerva who took a small step forward and cleared her throat into her handkerchief. “Thank you, I am honored to make the first nomination. We have created an extensive list. As I know best the students of my own house, after consideration, I am nominating a couple who has been together since both were fifth-years and have lasted nearly without conflict until this their seventh-year: Gryffindors, Hayley Olson, and Gideon Druery.”
There was a small, contained applause, during which, Professor Vector raised her wand and added a tick next to the nominated couples’ names on the blackboard.
“Next we shall hear from Professor Filius Flitwick, Head of House Ravenclaw,” Pomona announced.
“Well, then,” Flitwick began, “I too am inclined to go with a seventh-year couple who I have observed develop in my own house. Some of you may be inclined to discredit my choice based on certain events of last year. I would remind you that most of the events of last year were the directed doing of one Dolores Umbridge…” Mention of the despised name drew a hiss from many of the Professors. “…And, any actions on the part of students were clearly coerced. The couple I am nominating is Marietta Edgecombe and Eddie Carmichael, and I would ask you to consider that the coerced action of Miss Edgecombe last year, has nothing to do with whether or not this couple may truly be in or heading for love. Further, consider that Mr. Carmichael did not abandon Miss Edgecombe in the face of the backlash.”
Applause followed as did the placing of a tick next to the couple’s name on the board.
“Next we will hear from Head of House Slytherin, Professor Severus Snape,” Pomona called. “Is Professor Snape here with us?”
“I am indeed,” Snape responded, emerging from a shadowed alcove along the exterior wall of the staffroom. “When I was confronted yesterday by the other Heads of House with the news that Professor Sprout’s Irretitus Amor seeds had finally sprouted, my first thought was to dread the idea of having to make this nomination. However, as the former Potions Master to this institution, I am only too aware of the value of Irretitus Amor petals as a widespread potions ingredient, or additive, and its rather exorbitant cost of acquisition, due to some rather odd and specific cultivation requirements. Normally, I would be inclined to make a nomination based on the values of Salazar Slytherin, my house namesake, which would suggest that heritage and status should drive the decision. A couple like Pansy Parkinson and Draco Malfoy comes immediately to mind following this guidance. Though, as the cultivation of the herb in question is dependent on, among other things, the presence of love in the relationship of the planting couple…” Snape said the word love with a combination of doubt and disdain. “…I must consider which couples have demonstrated the likelihood of a strong, loving relationship. I, therefore, nominate a sixth-year couple from House Slytherin, Daphne Greengrass, and Theo Knott.”
This announcement met with enthusiastic applause and received its tick on the board.
“That gives us half the required couples,” Professor Sprout said. “This brings us to my nomination as Head of House Hufflepuff. As most of you know, Helga Hufflepuff, as one of our founders, valued fair play, understanding, and tolerance regarding all aspects of learning and people. In the spirit of tolerance, I am inclined to nominate a couple from my house whose relationship in some circles is considered controversial. I however base my decision not on the controversy, but like Professor Snape, based on what couple I believe is most likely to yield a positive outcome in the cultivation. I, therefore, nominate from House Hufflepuff, Tracey Cauldwell, and Alice Morgan.”
The smattering of applause that followed revealed that not all of the professors of Hogwarts were as tolerant as Professor Sprout hoped they would be.
“To put forth a same-sex couple is unprecedented,” Professor Snape said, addressing Professor Sprout. “Leaving any personal feelings or arguments aside, might we ask the Headmaster to make a ruling on the matter?”
Professor Sprout responded by looking directly at Headmaster Dumbledore.
“Let me approach the matter by asking two questions,” Dumbledore said quietly as he took a step forward toward the center of the gathered professors. “First, have both students reached the age of seventeen? Second, have the two students in question made it clear through their speech and action that they are indeed a couple? And they are indeed ready to make this openly known to the Wizard world at large?”
There was a general nodding of positive acknowledgment.
“In that case, I see no reason that they should be excluded and no evidence that they should be any less loving than any other declared couple. Therefore, I say, let the nomination stand.”
This did not seem to increase the smattering of applause, but the couple did receive its tick.
“That gives us four of six couples.” Professor Sprout continued enthusiastically. “Now, you have each been given a small slip of parchment. Heads of Houses excluded. At this time, you may write down the names of two of the remaining couples from the list, and place your parchment in the box provided here.” She motioned to a wooden ballot box on the end of the table upon which Professor Flitwick was still standing. “Professor Hagrid has given me his parchment and has agreed to vote in absentia, as he is presently supervising student lunch.” She stepped forward and placed Hagrid’s parchment in the box. The other professors followed quickly.
When the voting had ended Madam Hooch stepped forward and poked the side of the box with her wand causing it to rise into the air and shake and flip itself vigorously, mixing up the slips inside. After a half minute, it settled back to the table. She gently tapped the top of the box with her wand and one at a time the parchment slips began to pop up from the slot and float, twirling in the air, until she reached out to retrieve them. She read each entry aloud whereupon either Madam Pince or Madame Pomfrey alternately, would flick their wand to add a tick next to the appropriate couple’s names on the blackboard.
Headmaster Dumbledore watched and listened to this process until about three-quarters of the votes had been tallied. A clear winner was emerging as the relationship of seventh-years Cho Chang of Ravenclaw and Cormac McLaggen of Gryffindor, was receiving a clear preponderance of available votes. Seconding the emerging winner running neck and neck, were the relationships of Hufflepuff sixth-years Susan Bones and Ernie Macmillan, and the fifth-years Katherine Markhum of Ravenclaw and Gordon Blau of Slytherin.
“Ahem,” Headmaster Dumbledore announced his presence, which was enough to silence the room. “I do believe it is traditionally within the rules to offer the Headmaster an opportunity to make a nomination, is it not?”
“You are quite correct, Headmaster,” Professor Sprout responded. “I apologize. Since you have never chosen to exercise that privilege, I assumed… Well, I am very sorry, Albus, and if you would care to make a nomination now, we will gladly hear it.”
“You are right that I, in my time as Headmaster, have never cared to add a nomination of my own. I confess, I have simply never found a compelling reason to do so, generally believing, perhaps foolishly, that my students are too young to truly know matters of the heart. Even in nineteen seventy-seven, when the harvest was last found to be truly successful, I failed to recognize the strength of the love of two of our now rather famous students who were most assuredly responsible for the remarkable harvest that year.” He paused letting all present consider his words. “Now, however, I find myself in the position of considering the name of the son of that famous couple right in front of me on this slate.” He gestured to the large blackboard on the wall. “I have to ask myself if a boy born to a couple with such a clearly demonstrated love, might carry something of that love inside himself,” he paused again allowing time for consideration. “Therefore, with your indulgence, I would like to nominate, even though it is a very new relationship, from House Gryffindor, fifth-year, Ginny Weasley, and sixth-year, Harry Potter.”
There followed enthusiastic applause as the Headmaster flicked his wand and added the appropriate tick to the board with a substantial flourish.
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Chapter 2: Chapter 2: Fallacious Finger-pointing
Author's Notes: Thank you to my Beta reader, Arnel, for profound patience and wonderful suggestions.
Irretitus Amor Part Two
After Wednesday morning breakfast, Hayley Olson had a free period while her boyfriend Gideon had to go to Astronomy. Normally she would just hang out in the common room until it was time for Transfiguration and she would meet Gideon there. This particular morning, however, she had a lot on her mind and so she had gone back up to her dorm where she would usually be left alone.
Hayley loved attending Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. She still remembered feeling envy when her oldest brother Ian had gotten his letter. Two years later her next brother Brenan had gotten his.
She had only been about to turn six when Ian’s letter had arrived but she already knew of Hogwarts from the stories her father so often told. She had missed her brothers once they had each gone off to the magical school, but once she had turned eleven and received her letter, she had both brothers here with her for a full two years. She would have loved to have all three of them in the same house, but Ian had been a Ravenclaw and Brenan a Hufflepuff, and she had landed in Gryffindor, the house her father had been in.
Hayley’s mother had been from Central America, Panama, specifically, and attended a school named Castelobruxo in Brazil. Her parents had met while her father was traveling extensively for his work with the International Portkey Company (IPC), establishing transfer sights along magical ley lines.
Even though her father and their last name were Scandinavian, she and her brothers had taken after their mother in eye, hair, and skin color. Her genetic ethnicity had never concerned her greatly, but it could sometimes be confusing to some of her classmates upon the first introduction.
She had always been quite a popular girl, and according to her peers, a beautiful girl. So, from pretty early on she had dealt with requests for dates from boys as old as seventh-years.
During her fifth year, she had set her eye on a boy in her house, Gideon Druery, whom she had been childhood friends with before Hogwarts. His father worked for the Ministry, in the Department of International Magical Cooperation, which sometimes intersected with her father’s work. The two men had become good friends and frequently, after her mother had passed when she was eight, she had stayed with the Druerys so that her father could make trips for work.
Gideon had long considered Hayley one of his best friends, but he’d been intimidated by her beauty and popularity at Hogwarts and so thought their friendship would become a thing of the past. During their fifth year, emboldened by rumors that she might be interested, he summoned the courage and asked her to the Yule ball. They had been a couple since that night.
Hayley had been part of the St Mungo’s work experience program during her seventh year, recommended by her Head of House, Professor McGonagall, and that had led to her acceptance into a Medi-witch apprenticeship beginning the next fall. She had wanted to become a Healer from a very young age, and this planted her firmly on the path. The news, however, had not set well with Gideon who had plans to become a curse-breaker and had arranged an internship in Egypt following his graduation from Hogwarts. He had asked Hayley to come with him, suggesting that she could find a place to study there, and hinting that they might get married once he had found employment in his chosen field. But she was not willing to give up her aspirations and suggested that they could endure the time apart. She had even added that due to her father’s position with the IPC, it would be a simple matter to travel back and forth quite frequently.
Over the past few weeks, they had begun fighting frequently and while they had managed to keep their issues largely secret from their friends, she was feeling considerable stress over the matter.
She woke suddenly, having fallen asleep atop her bed. She waved her wand casually asking it the time and realized with jarring clarity that her Transfiguration class started in less than five minutes.
Hayley grabbed her knapsack and bolted out the door. She ran full out for the Transfiguration classroom to the chagrin and protest of several prefects and one particularly annoyed group of first-years when she leapt onto the moving staircase, and with a flick of her wand sent it moving in her direction rather than where they had intended to go.
The corridors were emptying fast as she rounded the corner. She could see Professor McGonagall standing at the doorway as she commonly did. Hayley would have sworn that her favorite teacher had seen her, and so she breathed relief as she approached thinking the professor would hold the door. Perhaps she was wrong, as the classroom door suddenly closed just as she was about to reach it. She was confused, and even a bit hurt, thinking that Professor McGonagall must have known she was there.
She pulled on the door and slipped in as Professor McGonagall stepped up the classroom aisle toward the front, and turned around quickly. “Well, well,” Professor McGonagall started. “How nice of you to join this morning, Miss Olson.”
Hayley was dumbfounded; she had known Professor McGonagall to be quite curt and intimidating with first-years, but she was one of the Professor’s favorite students, or at least she had thought she was. “I am sorry, professor, I…”
Professor McGonagall had raised a hand to stop her mid-statement. “For your tardiness this morning, Miss Olson, I will take no house points, but you will stand detention this Friday evening with Professor Sprout.”
And that was it. It seemed so utterly unfair. It had never happened in seven years of Hogwarts attendance, but Hayley had detention.
At that moment in the staffroom, a red “D” appeared next to the name Hayley Olson on the chalkboard. Professor Vector noted the change and turning, addressed the room. “Did anyone have Hayley Olson of Gryffindor, as the first to receive detention?”
Madam Hooch turned from the table where she had been reading the Daily Prophet. “Blimey, that’s a real long shot, I would never have called that. I think either Charity or Horace may have had it.”
“If so,” Professor Vector proclaimed, “We may have our first winner!”
By lunchtime the whole school was abuzz. Apparently, during Professor Slughorn’s second-period Potions class Eddie Carmichael and Cormac McLaggen had been given Friday detention for nothing more than failing to thoroughly Scourgify their cauldron after creating a particularly sticky failed potion. And then their girlfriends, long-time friends, Marietta Edgecombe and Cho Chang, had been given detention as well when they whispered their disapproval together, at their table. The thing was, neither offense was something that hadn’t happened before, numerous times, and simply been overlooked by the usually jovial Professor Slughorn.
Professors giving detention, while not an uncommon occurrence, was normally reserved for something that was truly reckless, intentionally mean, a clear violation of school rules, or just plain stupid. And most often it was accompanied by some sort of loss to house points.
For five people to receive detention in one morning with no loss of any house points, for offenses that typically yielded the very opposite result, that felt unprecedented. Clearly, there was something wrong at Hogwarts, or at least it seemed that way.
By afternoon tea, Daphne Greengrass and Theo Knott had been separated and given detention in Muggle Studies for an “inappropriate public display of affection,” by the normally quite detached and ineffectual Professor Burbage. All the other students in the class claimed that the well-established Slytherin couple had only been holding hands as they entered the classroom and while they were seated together, no one witnessed anything more than the occasional toe tap beneath the table, which arguably could have been entirely accidental.
And worse even than that, Professor Sprout herself, had given her arguably favorite seventh-year student, Tracey Cauldwell, detention for allegedly, improperly mixing a batch of, Komodo Dragon chili, fire-whiskey, and Mooncalf dung, fertilizer, for the Flaming Citrus saplings in Greenhouse two.
Several students claimed they then saw the Professor using the allegedly faulty batch of fertilizer on the saplings later on during the very same class.
By the end of the evening on Wednesday the students had started a rumor that some of the professors had contracted a rare form of magical dementia that caused overreaction to the smallest and most inconsequential of events.
It was called Schizomalament-Deviatitus, and apparently, the only way it could be contracted was by ingesting the magical underbelly mucus of a carnivorous, tree-dwelling salamander from the island of Suwarrow in the Cook Islands of the South Pacific. But the symptoms seemed to fit, so the rumor kept growing.
At breakfast Thursday morning, students were warning each other not to use any of the imported mango jellies, as the Salamandridae Suwarrofice mucus had been traced to a contaminated jar.
Many of the first-and second-years fully expected that an announcement was forthcoming that the affected professors had, overnight, been transferred to St Mungo’s for specialized treatment.
When no such announcement came, most of the students accepted that it had just been a rather strange day of odd occurrences and attempted to make the best of the day before them.
By lunchtime, Alice Morgan had received detention from Professor Trelawney, for speaking out in Divination, against the seemingly arbitrary detentions that had been handed out the day before. And later in the day, Gideon Druery received detention from Professor Babbling for suggesting that the runes he’d been asked to translate were intentionally aligned in a way that made them untranslatable. Or at the very least creating a series that made no sense whatsoever.
The series had been from three, unassociated runic dead languages and so lacked any context to create meaning. Translated independently they read; The ruler; commands; without rules. Which Gideon had said lacked sufficient meaning and was therefore contradictory.
At dinner in the Great Hall, Hermione observed that all the detentions, though they seemed to have been applied quite arbitrarily, had involved only quite prominent student couples at the school and theorized that some sort of social experiment involving the couplings could be behind the whole fiasco.
Hermione counseled Harry and Ginny to forgo their usual after-dinner walk and simply spend the evening in the relative safety of the Gryffindor common room.
They agreed that, given the odd detentions and Hermione’s observation, coupled with the fact that Harry already had perpetual Saturday detention with Professor Snape, perhaps it would be a good idea to hide in the common room until whatever was happening could blow over.
After dinner, they were all headed to the common room when Ginny remembered that she needed a book from the library. She stopped suddenly. “Bollix, I almost forgot, I need to pop by the library for that book on exotic tropical animals to finish my report for Care of Magical Creatures. Luna had it checked out but she promised to return it today and Madam Pince agreed to hold it for me.”
“Maybe you can look up that Salamander all the third-years have been talking about,” Ron said.
“Maybe,” Ginny looked at Ron queerly. “But that is not why I need it. If we’re staying in the common room this evening, I’ll need it.”
“Well,” Harry said, “why don’t we just pop ‘round to get it quickly?” He was ready to go with her without hesitation.
“No, you three go to the common room and I’ll just run back for it. Probably safer to not be presenting as a couple too much just now. I won’t be a sec.” And with that, she was off.
Harry hesitated, watching Ginny speed away down the corridor in the opposite direction.
“Come on, mate,” Ron said urging Harry along. “Ginny’s probably right and you heard her, she won’t be a sec.”
Hermione, Ron, and Harry headed along their way.
In the Gryffindor common room, they discovered that almost everyone seemed to have the same idea about staying in. The room was full of Gryffindors, but they were able to secure a large study table and had just laid out all their revising materials when the portrait hole flew open and an obviously livid Ginny bolted into the room.
“Well, that’s done it!” Ginny proclaimed slamming her library book on the table. “Guess who just got detention!”
Hermione cringed at Ginny's careless treatment of the book but decided now was probably not the time to say anything. Instead, she asked, “What happened?”
“Well, I got to the library just fine,” Ginny began. “And I saw Madam Pince at the checkout counter. She even smiled at me oddly, which I took to mean she knew what I was there for. I marched up to her but I was still breathing heavily from being in a hurry and Madam Pince hit me with a loud ‘Shh,’ which seemed odd. I took a deep breath and politely asked for the book, which she had right there ready for me. She stamped the book and handed it to me. I hadn’t noticed that Agnes Minkeigh, that Slytherin git, rolled the sorting trolly right up behind me.”
“Oh, no,” Hermione said, anticipating what happened next.
“Well, I turned around quickly and banged straight into the trolly,” Ginny exclaimed.
“You didn’t,” Ron said.
“Tipped it straight over and sent books skidding everywhere as the heavy trolly slammed into the floor with a deafening thud.” Ginny was waving her arms to illustrate as she spoke.
“But that sounds completely like an accident,” Harry protested. “Surely, Madam Pince could see that?”
“I don’t think so, 'cause Agnes was giggling and looking at Madam Pince like it had been planned!” Ginny’s ire was up.
“So, what happened next?” Hermione asked.
“Well, Madam Pince stands up imperiously behind her counter and looks straight at me, and says,” Ginny planted her hands on the end of the table, and leaning in, launched into a spot-on nasally impersonation of the Librarian. “Ginny Weasley, you’ve just earned yourself detention tomorrow, for not watching where you are going!”
“That’s terrible,” Ron said. “Great impression, though, Gin.”
Ginny shot Ron a sarcastic smile and plopped down into the chair next to Harry, defeated.
“Well, you know what this means,” Ron stated matter-of-factly.
“What?” The others asked simultaneously.
Ron looked straight at Harry. “You’re next, mate.”
Friday morning, Harry was on his best behavior. As willing as he was to share detention with Ginny, there was just something about going voluntarily that was against his nature.
He swore that every professor was observing him hawkishly at every possible moment. Still, he’d managed to make it through to lunch without incident. Oddly, during the lunch service, he observed the High Table, and all the professors seemed to be present, including Headmaster Dumbledor, which they all agreed was a bit strange. All, that is, with the obvious absence of Snape.
Harry caught the headmaster’s eye, and Dumbledore raised his glass to him slightly with a small smile and a subtle wink. Harry could only smile back.
The heavy main door to the Great Hall opened, and Snape entered. He was reading something from a small parchment, which he quickly rolled up and stowed in his robe pocket. He deviated from the central aisle between the Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw tables and chose to come up the aisle between Gryffindor and Hufflepuff instead. The room grew silent, and Harry’s heart sank.
Snape looked sour as he approached at a quickened pace. He stopped as he reached Harry, and Harry stood to face him in anticipation. Snape glanced around the room, whereupon the students began to talk again feigning conversation as though they weren’t all listening.
“Mister Potter,” Professor Snape sounded angry, but then again, Harry always thought Snape sounded angry.
“Yes, professor,” Harry said, pretending respect.
“Headmaster Dumbledor has requested that I allow you to serve tomorrow’s detention today. You will join the group in serving detention this evening with Professor Sprout, in lieu of Saturday detention with me.”
Harry didn’t know what to say. And Snape was already turning up the aisle. He simply said, “Thank you, Professor.”
And that was that.
Friday at about half-seven, during the supper service, Professor Flitwick stopped by the staffroom. All wagers concerning the order of detentions had been assessed, finalized, and were being paid out by Professor Vector. Rules of conduct during that first round of betting were simple; if any legitimate opportunity to give a detention to any member of an elected couple presented itself it must be acted upon. No professor could win as a result of the detention they’d given. And, no discussion concerning when or how detention might be given was allowed. Other than that, the staff depended on Hogwarts’ reputation of truth, honor, and fair play to govern the staff’s behavior.
The slate was now filled with new betting options. Professors were allowed to wager on such things as, the order of couple arrival to detention, would particular couples get into arguments over the task, which couples would complete the planting, would a given couple break up during the detention, and if completed, would a couple’s planting be successful. There were categories for behaviors, expressions, order of events, levels of completion, and outcomes by individual couples or as a whole. Wagering was never compulsory, but over the years the whole event had become a bit of a diversion for the professors, and the wagering was considered all in good fun. In fact, many of the professors simply stated that anything they won should go directly into the school fund.
Professor Flitwick had placed several wagers on his house couple Marietta Edgecombe and Eddie Carmichael. He’d wagered that the two would arrive together and be the second couple to detention, that they would have at least one procedural argument, and that their overall planting would be successful, producing at least fifty surviving bonded plants with both blossoms and seed pods. He’d chosen the first blossom at five days, with a healthy pink color, and a yield of two pecks at five weeks, with a potions efficacy of twenty percent. As he filled in his wagers in the appropriate boxes on the grid, he took note of some of the other wagers. Professor Trelawney had wagered that Tracey Cauldwell and Alice Morgan, would be the first couple to arrive, and Cho Chang, and Cormac McLaggen, the last. She’d wagered that Ginny Weasley and Harry Potter, would break up during the detention and not complete their planting, and she wagered that there would be no harvest this year at all. Flitwick chuckled to himself thinking, for a Divination Professor, she had a reputation for very poor predictive skills.
Something that interested him greatly was that Headmaster Dumbledore had placed several wagers, which was, to his memory unusual. Dumbledore had wagered that Ginny and Harry would be either third or fourth to arrive, that they would carry out the assigned planting with complete cooperation, that all one hundred of their bonded plants would survive and produce both blossoms and seed pods, that their blossoms would be fully crimson, and therefore have an efficacy of one hundred percent, and their five-week harvest would produce a yield of at least seven bushels and two pecks. The man had gone all-in on his nomination. He was either quite confident in his nomination, completely barking, or he knew something that the rest of the staff did not.
Flitwick decided to duplicate the Headmaster’s wager concerning the arrival of Ginny and Harry as a couple, but he couldn’t justify the other, such bold wagers considering the Headmaster had been completely correct noting the last time the harvest had been truly successful had been nineteen hundred seventy-seven. It was either that student couples were not generally capable of experiencing actual love yet, or that the professors, who were all, for the most part, single, weren’t capable of recognizing it in their students. Either way, statistically the harvests over the years had been hit or miss at best.
The idea that Harry Potter might have somehow inherited, or otherwise learned, love from his parents was too big a risk to wager on when you considered that he was just fifteen months old when those parents were killed. No, that part just didn’t make sense to Flitwick, and judging by the posted wagers, it didn’t make much sense to many of the others either.
Professor Vector stood and announced that the participating students had all been sent notes informing them to report to greenhouse eight at a quarter past nine on the dot, to participate in their assigned detention with Professor Sprout.
“All wagers must be finalized by half-eight when betting closes,” Professor Vector continued. “All professors will then be asked to vacate the room for thirty minutes while the elves set up scrying pools, which are being brought out of Divination storage. When the room re-opens, we will be able to observe the detention in real-time from multiple perspectives. All events pertinent to wagers should be noted for verification by observing professors.” She paused.
“The elves will be serving students the usual evening tea in the Great Hall beginning at nine, but I am told there will be a different menu here in the staffroom featuring hors d'oeuvres and several more grown-up libation options.” Professor Vector sat back down and began ordering the parchment slips in front of her, and checking all the ties on her coin bags containing the sums that had been wagered.
A few minutes later when Professor Flitwick exited the room through its main entrance, he could hear Professor Vector again. “Ten minutes remain to finalize all bets, people, let’s get it done please!” He chuckled to himself as he walked.
“The whole thing is just so unfair, it’s obviously a setup,” Hermione was ranting. “Harry, how can you possibly be so calm?”
“Well, let’s see,” Harry said smiling. “I get to be released from a dreadful Saturday detention with Professor Snape, in favor of serving detention in the greenhouses with Professor Sprout, on a beautiful, clear, warm, moonlit, evening. And best of all I get to be there with Ginny. As far as I am concerned, set up or not, I win.” Ginny squeezed his hand beneath the common room table they were sitting at.
“I agree that it was a set-up, Hermione, and the way the Professors handed out detentions was a bit underhanded,” Ginny started. “I’ll even admit that I was quite angry at first, but I have to say now, that I quite agree with Harry.”
Harry jumped back in, “Six couples were chosen for this detention and I am sure it has something to do with the special requirements of some plant that Professor Sprout is trying to cultivate. We could ask Neville.” Harry caught Neville’s eye across the room where he and several other boys were gathered at another table observing a heated game of Wizard’s chess. He waved Neville over. “With all the time I’ve spent in my Aunt’s garden at home, I’ve come to quite like working with plants and soil, and I think Ginny feels the same way,” Ginny confirmed with a nod. “So, I imagine, whatever lies ahead of us tonight, could be turned into fun rather than a punishment.”
“Oh, you’re just trying to make the best of it,” Hermione said in frustration.
Neville stepped up to the end of the table. “Hi everyone, did you need something, Harry?”
“Yes, Neville,” Harry began. “I was just pondering this detention tonight. As it turns out, there are exactly six couples involved and I am guessing it has something to do with some plant that Professor Sprout is growing or wants to grow. You are quite involved in what’s going on in the greenhouses, ever heard of plants that need couples to be involved in some way?”
“That is a very interesting question, Harry,” Neville said, “Normally I would say, let me look into it and get back to you, but, you only have maybe ten minutes before you need to get going. So, off the top of my head, I can think of three. The Erotas phalaenopsis, Amantis Vitis, commonly called, Lover’s Vine, and Aphrodite Rose..
Erotas phalaenopsis is a magical orchid originally native to Africa but cultivated widely throughout Southern Europe. It is commonly believed that the flower will only grow in the wild where lovers have tread. It is popular in the gardens of married witches and wizards throughout Spain, Southern France, and Italy, and some of the incidental research claims that if the flower has been planted by a couple and their love fades, the flower will stop blooming causing the plant to eventually wither and die.”
“Is that love orchid? Neville?” Hermione asked. “I’ve seen it on ingredient lists for love potions, in potions recipe books.”
Ginny, giggled knowingly.
“Yes, exactly,” Neville responded.
“In the United States, there is a wizard plant called Lover’s Vine,” Neville continued, “that requires two seeds, one male and one female. Couples plant the seeds together and it germinates into a plant that resembles a creeping ivy, only its small flowers are heart-shaped and bright red. It is not a difficult plant to cultivate and is extremely hearty. It doesn’t really require a couple to plant it, only that the two seeds are planted together. It is widely grown in the same way that Love Orchid is throughout Southern Europe. It has a much greater climate range, but no medicinal or potions uses that I am aware of, it’s just become a sort of a tradition for Wizarding homes in the United States and Canada.”
“You mentioned one more,” Ron reminded. “Aphrodite Rose.?”
“Yeah, are you all familiar with the myths of Aphrodite?” Neville asked.
Hermione and Ginny both said, “Yes.”
“We are?” Ron questioned.
“Isn’t that the Greek goddess of love?” Harry asked.
“Yes, exactly,” Neville confirmed. “Aphrodite was the goddess of beauty and physical desire. In Greek myth, she was the consort of Ares, the god of war, and mother to Eros. The Romans called her Venus and we know her son Eros, better by his Roman Name, Cupid.”
Both Ginny and Hermione had begun to blush.
“So, before Aphrodite was married to Ares, she fell in love with a mortal named Adonis, there is a whole story, but basically Adonis loved to hunt, and Aphrodite pleaded against such a dangerous activity. One day while out hunting Adonis pursues a wild boar, which it turns out is the god Ares in disguise. The boar turns on Adonis and gores him with its tusks, leaving him to die. Aphrodite arrives too late to save Adonis and her sorrow causes Adonis’ dripping blood to turn into anemone.”
“Ewe, isn’t that like a sea slug?” Ron asked.
“No, Ron,” Neville said. “There is a sea anemone, which is a creature that lives on a coral reef, but in this case, I am talking about a type of flower. In any case, in the Muggle versions of the myth, Adonis is transformed into short-lived flowers to represent lost love. However, there is a Wizard version of the myth in which Aphrodite secretly takes the body of Adonis to the base of Mount Olympus and buries him in a meadow filled with wild-rose, in which she casts all her eternal love for the mortal she has lost.”
“Okay, this is very romantic and all,” Harry said. “But can we just get to the Aphrodite Rose.?”
“Yeah,” Neville responded. “So, the Aphrodite Rose. is actually an extremely rare magical species rose, what we call naturally occurring roses, that grows in the area of the real Mount Olympus in Greece. The five petals of each flower are described as so deeply crimson, that the edges of the petals are nearly black. It is found in small clutches of magical woods and is said to have the ability to store love.”
“Store love?” Ginny asked, “What does that mean?”
“The plant has the magical property of absorbing the emotion of love from the experience of the one who planted it or first found it in the wild. Then if brewed into tea, the most primitive form of a potion, that emotion of love can be experienced for a time by the drinker of the tea. It is described as a particularly euphoric and emotionally healing experience. But, mind you, the plant itself is extremely rare and it has never been cultivated outside of Greece, so it is doubtful that is what is growing in greenhouse nine.”
“Thank you, Neville,” Harry said. “That was very interesting, but now we had better go if we don’t want to be late.”
“Thanks, Neville,” Ginny added as she and Harry got up from their chairs and turned toward the portrait hole.
“Good luck,” Neville said, as the fat lady swung open allowing Harry and Ginny to exit.
“Neville,” Hermione said before he could turn from the table. “There is another ingredient I have seen in love potion recipes, and in a lot of potions actually, as an ingredient and often as a recommended additive. It’s called Heart Petal. What do you know about it?”
Neville slapped himself on the forehead. “Of course, I should have thought of that one too. Heart Petal is pretty interesting stuff. It comes in different strengths according to its color and is used in a lot of potions as an alternative or direct substitute for Love Orchid. It is also widely used as an optional stabilizer. Back in the eighteen-nineties, there was a Greek Herbologist witch, with an American wizard husband, and together they were able to create a hybrid plant from a Lover’s Vine and an Aphrodite Rose. What they got was a vine with varying-sized blossoms that resemble natural rose flowers. I don’t know too much about it, but I guess it is very difficult to cultivate. That said, it is not restricted to any one place like the Aphrodite Rose. There is also something about the plants being tied to the romantic relationship of whoever planted them. There are a bunch of other requirements, but I would have to look it up in a planting guide.”
“Could that be what Professor Sprout is growing?” Hermione asked pointedly.
“Huh, I doubt it,” Neville said, and then he paused. “I mean it could be, but Professor Sprout has never talked about anything like that. And, she is generally very open and proud of what she has cultivated in the school greenhouses. She is a very accomplished Herbologist, you know, Hogwarts’ Mandrake is a particularly sought-after commodity in the Herbology world,” Neville said proudly.
“Really?” Hermione said with an expression of understanding.
“Well, if you don’t need me for anything else,” Neville said. “I would like to get back to the Wizard Chess game, we’re going to do challenge rounds this evening. Ron, are you interested, you haven’t joined in a while?”
Ron looked over at the table where the chess game was surrounded by observers and then looked back to Hermione.
“Oh, just go,” Hermione said exasperatedly. “You hardly need my permission.”
“Yeah, but I don’t want to leave you just on your own,” Ron said.
“Sweet, but unnecessary,” Hermione said sarcastically.
“You’re the best, Hermione!” Ron said, getting up from his seat. He and Neville quickly crossed the room to the ongoing Wizard Chess game.
He says that a lot, Hermione thought to herself. I wish he would just get a bloody clue and do something about it!
Back to index
Chapter 3: Chapter 3 - Detention
Author's Notes: Special thanks to Arnel, for her services a beta reader.
Irretitus Amor - Part Three
The sky was a wash of colors as the layers of high cirrus clouds to the west reflected brightly, from yellow to red to deep amethyst, against the setting sun. There was a light westerly breeze and a clear darkening sky in the East. It promised to be a warm, ideal night.
Harry and Ginny rounded the corner and headed down the stairs to the Entrance Hall, which was flooded with evening light coming through the open castle doors. Just outside the Great Hall, Hayley Olson and Gideon Druery were standing talking with a few of the other seventh-year Gryffindors. As Harry and Ginny reached the floor the couple peeled away from the others, who were going into late evening tea.
“Mind if we walk out together?” Gideon asked as the couple stepped in pace.
“Not at all,” Harry said.
Even though the two couples might not have truly counted themselves as friends, they were all from the same house and Gideon and Hayley were both enthusiastic Quidditch fans, so it was never terribly difficult to converse with either of them.
Most of the short walk to greenhouse eight was taken up with speculation about Oliver Wood’s prospects of coming up from the Reserve team for Puddlemere United.
When the four Gryffindors arrived, Tracey Cauldwell and Alice Morgan were already there talking quietly with Professor Sprout. Marietta Edgecombe and Eddie Carmichael had just arrived perhaps a dozen paces ahead of them.
Looking behind them, Cho Chang and Cormac McLaggen were just rounding the castle wall from the tertiary garden courtyard, and only a few paces behind them Daphne Greengrass and Theo Knott appeared.
Once they’d all stepped up to the cobblestone landing in front of greenhouse eight, Professor Sprout, checking her pocket watch, stepped forward to address them.
“Thank you all for being on time,” Professor Sprout began. “For your detention this evening I have some planting I need you all to accomplish. I need you to pay strict attention to my instructions because this plant has to be handled in some particular ways. The first thing I need from you is to divide yourselves into planting partnerships of two each.”
This was a tactic she’d used many times before intended to distract from the belief that the planting had to be undertaken by couples of any romantic nature. Never, in the many years she had done this exercise had the couples divided into other groupings. This year proved to be no different.
“If you have decided on your partnerships, please follow me.” She turned and entered the greenhouse marked number eight.
The interior of greenhouse eight was just as Harry had suspected it would be. It was filled with wooden bins and burlap sacks of all kinds of soil and types of fertilizers, there were shovels and rakes and implements of destruction, from handheld tools to large scythes and wheelbarrows. There were buckets and barrels and glass jars filled with powders and liquids, seeds, leaves, and petals. From the ceiling hung all manner of bunches of dried plants, intermixed and entangled with live vines and a multitude of all manner and colors of flowers growing randomly. It looked at once, active and abandoned, there seemed to be no sense to how things were stored and strewn about, but there wasn’t a thick layer of dust on everything either. Harry might have described it as the most pungent and beautiful chaos he had ever witnessed.
Professor Sprout wound her way through the supplies to a door directly opposite the entry, which Harry calculated must have been about halfway down the structure. The door had a heavy Muggle padlock on its hasp, and above the door was a single number painted in faded forest green, nine. The door was flanked on either side by counter-height tables. The professor touched the end of her wand to the keyhole of the lock and it sprang open, she then removed it from the hasp and laid it on the table to the right of the door. There was a wand stand on the table where she had put the lock and as she opened the door she pointed at the rack and said, “As this is a detention all tasks will have to be performed without the assistance of magic. Please leave your wands here. No student wands are allowed inside of greenhouse nine.” She stepped into the greenhouse and the couples all followed, leaving their wands in the little stand as instructed.
Greenhouse nine was austere compared to what they had just passed through. The walls and windows on each side were whitewashed to control the amount of incoming light, but the roof panes were completely unobstructed. There were counter-height tables surrounding the entire perimeter of the room.
In the center of the room were six long narrow raised planting boxes. Harry estimated they were each just over three meters long and only, perhaps sixty centimeters wide. They were placed perpendicular to the side walls and spaced about a meter and a half apart. Each was filled with rich, dark, prepared soil. At the far wall was a large barrel placed at the center, up on the table. It had a spout near its base. On the right side of the barrel were, six, shiny, copper, watering cans, and on the left, six, ceramic, water basins. On the counters at either end of the planting boxes were trays of seedling sprouts staggered between them. There were six large white trays and six large grey trays.
“Okay planting pairs,” Professor Sprout began, as they all advanced into the room. “Please claim a planting box and face me for your instructions.”
The couples quickly claimed the planting boxes more or less in the order they entered the room with Ginny and Harry taking up the rear and so getting the last box nearest the far wall.
“You’ve each chosen a planting box and this is where you will do your planting. Each pair is to stay strictly in their prepared box. Along the edge of each box on either side is a set of cut lines marking exactly thirty-centimeter intervals, as each box is three point three meters long there is space for one hundred plants along the center of each box at this interval.”
Harry observed the small notches set along the surface of the side boards of the planting box as Professor Sprout spoke. He had learned from experience that in a detention situation, it was best to listen carefully and understand all the instructions.
“Along the side walls, aligned with your planting box on alternating sides, you will find a pair of seedling trays. A white tray and a grey tray. Each tray holds one-hundred-twenty sprouts. The white tray contains female plants and the grey tray male. You will each bring a basin of water from the barrel at the back to your working area to set by your trays.
“To undertake proper planting please listen very carefully to my instructions. Each seedling has been sprouted in a small one-centimeter ball of peat and fertilizer. These seed rooting balls, should be easily removed from the tray simply by gently pulling the plant upwards by its stalk, it should come right out of the tray, with the rooting ball. If a stalk breaks simply choose another, that is why you have one hundred and twenty in each tray. One of you will take from one tray and your partner the other, it does not matter which as long as you take a sprout from each. Now, gently submerge the rooting ball in your water basin. It does not need to remain there, just a quick dunk will suffice.” Professor Sprout was miming the motions in the air before her.
“Next, quickly take your sprout to the planting box where you will make a small hole in the appropriate place with your forefingers. If you stand on opposite sides of your box and make your hole by touching the back of your forefingers together and then pressing down into the soil to the depth of your middle, or intermediate knuckle, you should have created a dual-hole that will perfectly accommodate the two rooting balls. Drop them together into the hole and gently press the soil from either side to close the holes around the stalks. Once you have filled your planting box with one hundred planted pairs of sprouts, empty your basin water into one of the copper watering cans, and give your row a nice gentle drink of water. You may add more water from the barrel to top off your can if you wish. When you have finished, return the empty basin and watering can to the back table where you found them. Clean up your work area as needed and you are done,” she paused for a moment. “Are there any questions?”
“Yes, Professor,” Alice Morgan spoke. “How important is the proper spacing?”
“Very good question, Alice,” Professor Sprout said. “I mentioned the markings of thirty centimeters along the sides of the planting boxes. This is so you can properly space your sprouts. Of course, absolute accuracy is not required, but who does not appreciate an accurately ordered planting box? If you would like to set a center line, there is also a peg on each end of the boxes marking the center. You are welcome to stretch a line from end to end, there should be plenty of string in the other room.” Alice nodded knowingly. “Any more questions?”
Daphne Greengrass spoke up. “I do not see any gloves in here, are we allowed to wear gardening gloves?”
“Ah, no, actually,” Professor Sprout said. “With seedlings, it is best to not wear gloves so that you can feel the delicate stalks as you work with them. Plus, this particular plant is said to benefit from the direct touch of the gardener.” Professor Sprout paused again awaiting any more questions. “Okay, then, there is just one last thing.”
In the time it had taken Professor Sprout to deliver the instructions the sun had dropped below the horizon and the moon had begun to rise. As the moon was full, and the sky now perfectly clear, it was turning into a very bright night.
“All of the plantings must be done by moonlight,” she waved her wand and all the ceiling panes of glass began to slide away, letting the unobstructed moonlight shine into the greenhouse. With another wave of her wand, all the torches went out. “Ah, Bella Luna,” she said in an approximation of an Italian accent, as she looked up at the full moon. “Once you have filled your planting box as instructed your detention will be concluded. You may then retrieve your wands and return to your common rooms.”
With that Professor Sprout turned on her heels and went out the door. “Happy planting,” she called as the door closed behind her.
Immediately all the couples started comparing their understanding of the instructions as they moved toward the back to retrieve a basin and fill it with water.
Harry and Ginny, being closest were first to fill their basin and move it to their seedling trays. They hadn’t spoken about anything, just turned together to select a basin, Harry just seemed to sense that he and Ginny understood everything the same. As the other couples moved past them to get their water, Harry addressed Alice as she and Tracy came toward the back.
“Excuse me, Alice?” Harry asked. “If you are going to pull a center string as Professor Sprout suggested, I think we would like to as well, would you show me where the string is?” Ginny nodded her agreement.
“Oh, sure, Harry,” Alice said. “Tracy, if you’ll get the water, I’ll go get some string with Harry.”
“Of course,” Tracy responded, as she kept moving toward the water where the other couples were queued to fill their basins.
Alice and Harry went quickly to the door and through to greenhouse eight. Alice went directly to a shelf where there were several spools of garden twine. Beneath the shelf was a large pail with several wooden planting sticks. Harry picked one up and looked at it. It was a simple wooden dowel and appeared to be very straight. “I don’t suppose there is a saw in here anywhere?” He asked.
“There should be some pruning saws over there,” Alice said pointing across the room to the opposite counter.
Harry stepped over and found a small pruning saw and picked up a bit of marking chalk as well.
“What are you up to, Harry?” Alice asked, standing there holding a ball of twine.
“I’ll show you,” he said, and he picked up a second wooden dowel. They went back into greenhouse nine.
Most of the other couples had started planting already. They didn’t seem to feel there was any need for any accurate measuring. They were just eyeing their way based on the notches. Cormac McLaggen and Eddie Carmichael had made a contest out of the whole thing to see who could finish fastest.
Harry set one of the dowels up on the edge of the first planting box and rolled it forward until it settled on the first notches. “Ah!” Alice said. “I follow your thinking now, brilliant.”
Harry carefully aligned one end of the dowels with the side of the planting box and using the saw cut them at the other end to be the perfect length to cross the top. Then he carefully marked the center of each dowel from the marking on the end of the planting box using the chalk. He handed one of the two dowels to Alice. “This may be a bit faster, and more accurate than stretching a string.”
“Thank you, Harry,” she said, as she turned and showed the dowel to Tracy, explaining how to use it. Harry and Ginny moved back to their planting box and starting opposite their seedling trays, began making their dual holes using Harry’s dowel.
Almost all of the Professors were gathered in the staffroom to observe the detention through the scrying pools. Headmaster Dumbledore had not made an appearance, but that was entirely typical.
The atmosphere of the room was quite festive as the Hogwarts elves had indeed provided a generous buffet of assorted hors d'oeuvres, and were serving drinks by request from behind a bar that had been moved into the room for the occasion.
Professor Slughorn was standing next to Professor Babbling at one of the pools observing the events in greenhouse nine. “I say, that Harry Potter is a clever boy,” he said. “Takes after his mother, I suppose. Lily was her name; she was one of the best potions students it was ever my pleasure to instruct. Did you know her?”
“No, Horace,” Bathsheda responded. “I never had the pleasure. I came to Hogwarts in Nineteen hundred, eighty. But I have heard many tales.”
“Indeed. Those were some very interesting years,” Horace chuckled. A Swedish meatball rolled off his plate of hors d'oeuvres and fell into the scrying pool with a plop, sending ripples through the image. “Oh, dear!” he chuckled a bit louder.
Pomona Sprout entered the staff room and made her way quickly to the first scrying pool where Minerva McGonagall and Poppy Pomfrey were standing watching the images within. She observed quietly for a few minutes. “I must say, I am surprised by Mr. Potter's ingenuity and adeptness at working without magic,” she said.
“Ah,” Minerva responded. “That is of no surprise to me, the boy was raised by the most atrocious Muggles it has ever been my displeasure to observe.
“When he was nine, Albus asked me to do a week of observance as a pre-Hogwarts assessment. In my Animagus form, I was able to use a glamor charm and present myself as one of the neighbor’s cats. I remember watching him work in his aunt’s garden. He always showed a propensity for task-oriented logical thought.”
“He’s always been an exceptional patient,” Poppy Pomfrey said. “He doesn’t complain even when he is in pain, and he asks for an explanation of what is happening. Once you explain he is a model patient following directions and prescriptions to the letter.”
“Again, some of that comes from his upbringing,” Minerva said, “He was conditioned to be as little bother as possible, so if you offer him respect and acknowledgment, he will give you his very best.”
“Indeed?” Pomona was considering the ramifications of Minerva’s observation. “He is certainly being very methodical with his improvised tool. Placement is going to be far more accurate than matters. He and Miss Weasley seem to work together in perfect concert. If their planting does not flower, it will at least be one of the most accurately undertaken plantings I have seen in many years. The only other couple coming anywhere close is Tracey and Alice, and they are two of my very best Herbology students.”
“Oh, Merlin’s beard!” Poppy said suddenly. “Well, that’s done it!” In an apparent effort to speed the process, both Cormac McLaggen and Eddie Carmichael had begun dumping their seedlings directly into their basins, against the protests of Cho Chang and Marietta Edgecombe.
“Cormac!” Cho hissed at him, “We cannot tell which tray the sprouts come from now!”
“And what if the poor things drown from absorbing too much water?” Marietta levelled at Eddie.
“What do I care?” Eddie retorted. “I hate Herbology, always have. So, the plants don’t grow, so what? What does Sprout need with six hundred of the bloody plants anyway? She’s barmy if you ask me.”
“Listen, we are already nearly a quarter of the way through,” Cormac said. “I for one don’t want to be here all evening getting my hands dirty, when I could be holed up in a seventh-floor corridor alcove having a proper snog.” Cho began to blush furiously, but she didn’t say anything more, she just started taking sprouts by the handful and headed for the planting box.
Cormac gave Eddie a quick elbow to the ribs and flashed a smile as he followed Cho’s lead, grabbing a fist full of sprouts.
“What a mess,” Marietta said as she pulled a few sprouts from their basin, “Well, I guess it’s done now; we’d best do what we can.” The root balls of peat had begun sloughing off the sprouts. “Well, we’d best hurry!”
Professor Flitwick called from across the room. “Pomona, don’t take it to heart. There are always a few who will get it all wrong, no matter what.”
“Yes. Thank you, Filius,” Pomona said in response. Still, the pain of the apparent loss of so many plants shone plainly across her face.
“Surely there will be a statistical survival rate, despite the obvious mishandling?” Professor Vector said, from her position one scrying pool to the left. “They were nearly twenty percent complete, before introducing this tragic variable, we can hope for a fifty percent success rate, optimistically.”
“I would consider it extremely unlikely that either of those couples was going to have flowering plantings regardless,” Severus Snape, said from his place at a pool to the right. He was on his fourth gin and tonic and would very soon be passably sociable. He attempted a smile, then raised and emptied his glass.
“Which couple did you bet on, Severus,” Charity Burbage asked him as she stepped out of his way to the bar.
Snape stopped and turned. “I placed a small wager on Potter and Weasley,” he said, “If you must know.”
“Severus,” Minerva said surprised, “Have you been holding out on us?”
“I may dislike the boy, and I certainly despised his father,” Severus said with uncharacteristic consideration, “but, I knew his mother for most of her life.” He turned again and headed back on his path.
Harry and Ginny had just finished very accurately making their one hundred dual holes, as the first two couples finished their planting and began emptying their basins into their watering cans.
Hayley and Gideon at the next planting box had been working together fairly well and they were about a quarter of the way through their planting, taking a fair amount of care with the seedlings, at Hayley’s insistence, but there seemed to Harry to be a tension developing between them that he hadn’t seen earlier when they had walked out together. In fact, he thought Gideon was looking a bit angry the longer they worked.
Daphne and Theo had been working in near silence, whispering between themselves. They were perhaps halfway through the task and making steady progress. They didn’t seem to want to acknowledge that any of the other couples were there. Harry thought that typical of the two Slytherins.
At the planting box furthest away from them, Tracy and Alice had finished creating their holes and were delicately transferring seedlings according to Professor Sprout’s instructions.
Cormac had successfully transferred the muck that had developed in his and Cho’s basin into their watering can, but when he went to water the sprouts the water holes became clogged. He swore loudly and rolling up one sleeve he reached into the can and pulled out a fistful of muddy, gloppy peat. He tossed it at the end of the planting box causing some of it to splash across the front of Cho’s robes.
“Cormac!” Cho cried shrilly.
Cormac and Eddie began laughing.
“Eddie!” Marietta scolded, “That is not funny!”
“Sure, it is,” Eddie said still laughing.
Marietta reached into their basin and grabbed a great clump of muddy glop and said, “Well, then this will be hilarious.” She tossed the whole mess across his front causing it to drip and roll down the front of his robes.
Eddie looked surprised and quite horrified as the cold wet soaked through to his skin.
The rest of the couples were dead silent with surprise for the space of a few heartbeats, then the greenhouse erupted in laughter.
Alice and Tracy, assessing the situation each stepped back toward the door. Harry quickly moved to the far side of the planting box next to Ginny in case they needed to duck.
Theo Knott was finding the display quite funny, but Daphne was shaking her head and observed, “Very childish.”
Eddie stepped to their basin and reached in with two hands drawing out the remaining mass of peat and soaked excess seedlings, whereupon Marietta fled between the planting boxes forcing Daphne to dodge away, causing her to drop the seedling she was carefully carrying.
Hayley and Gideon abandoned their planting box and joined Harry and Ginny at the back of the room.
Eddie caught up with Marietta at the far end of their planning box and hit her with his handfuls of muck across her shoulders and head, matting her hair with the drippy muddy mass. Marietta screamed as the cold dripped into and through the collar of her robes.
Cormac was practically doubled over in laughter and so hadn’t noticed that Cho had picked up their watering can. She dumped most of the sloppy contents of the can over his head.
Cormac stood up and tore the can out of her hands. With an evil grin, he sloshed the can around in his hands testing that some of the muddy liquid remained within it. He promptly flung the contents at Cho, who screamed and dodged out of the way with skills honed on the Quidditch pitch.
The splash of fouled water shot out of the wide opening of the can and travelled over their planter until the bulk of it encountered a horrified Daphne and soaked the unplanted end of her and Theo’s planting bed.
“That’s done it, Cormac,” Theo said angrily. He pulled up a fistful of mucky soil from the planter and balling it tightly launched it full swing back at the older boy, catching him full in the chest.
“That hurt, Knott!” Cormac said, as he bent over to retrieve some of the slop at his feet and packed it between his hands.
“Don’t you dare,” Daphne screamed.
Undeterred, Cormac swung his arm back and pitched the dirt ball at Theo.
“That’s gett’n a bit out of hand, that is,” Hagrid said from his seat near the outside wall.
“Do you think someone should intervene?” Charity asked.
“Naw, they can’t, very well, do too much damage to one another without their wands,” Madam Hooch, responded.
“Once the planting has begun, we do not interfere,” Minerva recited. “Those are the rules,”
“Do you remember the fiasco of eighty-one?” Flitwick asked.
“That is exactly why they have to leave their wands,” Pomona said. “And, in the end, everyone survived.”
“That was only my first year,” Bathsheda said. “I nearly resigned from my post because of that incident.”
“That was right toward the end of the reign of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Who could have known that some of our very own students were already Death Eaters?” Septima Vector added.
“Please! Let’s not tell that dreadful tale again,” Snape protested. “It comes up every four years.”
Across the room, Pomona whispered, “I could have saved all those plants, and we’d have continued record harvests,” she said sadly. “If the whole crop hadn’t died the very next Halloween.”
Minerva McGonagall eased a bit closer to the now quiet Herbology Professor. “Perhaps our Headmaster will be correct about Mister Potter and Miss Weasley, and you will soon have another thriving crop?” she whispered in an attempt to comfort.
Suddenly Hagrid raised his voice excitedly. “A’ta boy, Harry!”
“Oh, dear,” Horace Slughorn leaned in, unknowingly dropping another meatball, “Boy, get out of the line of that girl’s temper,” he said urgently, addressing the images in the pool. He leaned back again, chuckling, and addressed Sybill Trelawney, who had taken the spot formerly occupied by Bethesda who had moved along to mingle. “Miss Weasley can cast the most extraordinary Bat Bogey Hex, truly astounding to witness. I believe she gets her temper from her mother and the Prewett side of her family.”
Cormac launched the dirt ball full force at Theo Knott. Knott, however, was fully prepared for just such an action and easily stepped aside out of the path of the object. As he did so, both boys realized with sudden clarity that the dirt ball was now heading directly, and forcefully, at the face of a surprised and unsuspecting Ginny Weasley. All that could be heard was a surprised “Eep!” at the imminent collision.
At the very last instant, faster than anyone would have thought possible, with reflexes honed as a Quidditch Seeker, Harry’s hand passed just inches in front of Ginny’s face, his fingers coming tight around the object which broke apart on contact, the force of the impact causing his arm to arc backward over Ginny’s head. He spun around with the movement of his arm and clutched his left hand with his right. He didn’t make a sound, but the look on his face told Ginny he was in pain. He let his hand open revealing a jagged white stone from the floor of the greenhouse as the dirt and mud fell away. His hand was bright red from the impact.
Ginny grabbed the stone from Harry’s hand and held it up to show the others. As she turned, it was as if a fan had come from beneath her, causing her loose red hair to billow out from her shoulders and it had the glow of flames as it radiated about her head. “You hurt Harry,” she said with an adamant calm that was more frightening than a thousand screams. Her face was an expression of anger that was like a bucket of ice on Cormac McLaggen’ s soul. He raised his arms as though to protect himself from impending doom.
Before Ginny could utter another word, Harry took her hand in his and despite the pain, gave her a gentle squeeze. He could feel her excess magical energy suddenly break and dissolve. It came through her arm, passing into him like a flood. Their palms glowed golden together for an instant, to the utter astonishment of everybody in the room, and Harry’s pain was gone. She turned her face to Harry and smiled gently. Then turned back to Cormac and screamed, “OUT! NOW! Both you and Eddie, and take your girlfriends with you!”
Cho looked affronted, but too completely cowed to dare respond. They left everything where and how it was and the two couples quickly exited the greenhouse.
At that moment, first-year, Milly Harper, happened to be passing in front of the staffroom headed on her way to the Ravenclaw common room. She was concentrating hard on opening the last of a half dozen chocolate frog cards she’d received by owl post, from her older brother. She paused so she could carefully pull the cord and catch the tasty chocolate frog. There was a sudden roar from inside the room as though a particularly crucial score had been made at the Quidditch finals. The cheer startled Milly and caused her to drop her card packet, which popped open, allowing the chocolate frog to hop toward the dungeon stairs. She shot a disturbed look at the staffroom door, grabbed the card pack, and leapt after the coveted frog.
The atmosphere in the staffroom was gleeful and boisterous.
“The boy is a born Seeker!” Professor McGonagall exclaimed at the sight of Harry’s catch.
Everyone’s attention was on the scrying pools as Ginny checked Harry’s hand and turned to reveal the rock from within the clump.
Commentary was erupting at each pool with members of the staff reacting to the unfolding events.
“Look, look, look, that child is doing wandless magic!” Professor Flitwick declared, “Brilliant!”
“Oh look, it is healing magic,” Matron Poppy Pomfrey added. “This is extraordinary indeed.”
“What does this mean for the planting, Pomona?” Septima Vector asked. “Such an outburst of angry emotional magic. Will this derail yet another planting sequence?”
“It is difficult to say,” Professor Sprout responded. “It depends entirely on the emotional motivation of the outburst, and the residual magical energy released. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Snape turned toward the others and nearly lost his balance in the quick movement. He took a moment to steady himself, holding tight to the back of a chair. His usual poker face was betrayed by his evening’s consumption and something of angry envy was trembling slightly on his lips. “Do you honestly not know what you’ve just witnessed?” he said speaking slowly, clearly trying not to slur his words. “You see defense and call it only anger? I swear sometimes I cannot believe you are my colleagues.” He pointed angrily to the scrying pool at his side. “That unworthy, boy, like his father before him is graced with the highest emotional honor. Don’t you see? A golden glow, manifest as emotional magic can mean only one thing!” he paused. “This world is so extraordinarily unfair!” He lost his grip on the chair and nearly fell over. Catching himself and standing straight up stiffly and unsteadily. “It makes me hate him more!” The room had gone silent. Everyone’s eyes were on Snape, who was normally quite reserved and antisocial. He suddenly seemed to realize his own outburst and embarrassed regret played across his face. “Forgive me,” he said with the slightest bow of his head. “I will remove myself now,” he moved unsteadily toward the back entrance to the staffroom.
Minerva McGonagall caught the eye of one of the serving elves and gestured toward Snape.
Suddenly two elves stepped toward Snape, flanking the teetering professor and they all disappeared in a pop of elf Magic.
“Well, he’ll be paying for that in the morning.” Professor Slughorn chortled.
The room immediately returned to excited conversations.
“What did Professor Snape mean about a golden glow?” Charity Burbage quietly asked Professor Trelawney, whom she found herself standing next to around one of the pools. Sybill did not seem entirely steady herself, but she looked up thoughtfully and responded. “Emotional magic is often accompanied by a colorful glow,” she said, as though reciting from a book. “A golden color is considered the most powerful emotional expression and generally associated with acts of love.”
Professor Burbage giggled uncomfortably.
“Do you understand?” Professor Trelawney asked.
“Yes.” Charity responded, thoughtfully. “I understand I have wagered unwisely.”
Hermione left the Gryffindor common room only a few minutes after Harry and Ginny. Ron was so engrossed in the chess match that he didn’t notice when she quietly got up and left.
There was a mystery to solve here and Hermione was just a little frustrated that the boys were content to leave it be. Harry and Ginny seemed content in the fact that they were getting to spend time together and so the reason seemed to otherwise not matter.
Hermione wanted more facts.
The whole term had been dominated by Harry’s obsession with the Half-Blood Prince’s potions book and his suspicions that Malfoy had become a Death Eater and was up to no good. That, and what he had told them about his meetings with Headmaster Dumbledore, which she suspected was only a fraction of the actual experience. She could understand that he only had so much concern available for anything outside his central focus. Which he was already balancing against his new romance with Ginny.
For the moment they seemed to be enjoying a respite from some of these broader, more pressing concerns, and she had to admit that it was providing a precious small window during which Harry and Ginny might explore their potential relationship. For her part, she favored the relationship and saw the potential there for the long term. She knew Harry though, like no other friend, not even, she thought, Ron. In her heart, she knew that Harry would ultimately choose the path of honor and sacrifice, and so the present status of the relationship would probably end by the close of the term, or certainly by the end of summer, depending on events.
Just like her ongoing research to discover who was the actual Half-Blood Prince, the mystery of this detention felt to her like it needed solving. For Hermione, that would normally mean a visit to the library; however, the library would already be closed at this hour. Instead, she rushed to the clock tower as that would afford her the best view of the greenhouses.
She arrived at the tower just in time to see the last of the couples enter greenhouse eight. Professor Sprout was there and she seemed to be looking around carefully before she entered after the students. Hermione was not at all sure what she expected to happen, but for several long minutes nothing happened at all, and she began to question her decision to come to the tower.
Hermione watched the sun slip down behind the horizon in a blaze of wistful glory and then before the dusk had even given way to dark, the full moon was rising in the evening sky. After pausing to take in this spectacle of astronomy she gave the greenhouses another quick look.
As if on cue, the roof windows, at the back of what she knew to be greenhouse eight, all slid down and disappeared into the side walls, and the torchlight coming from inside went out. Moments later Professor Sprout appeared at the entrance and with a skip in her steps like Harry and Ginny had described on Monday morning, she headed back toward the castle, and even in the tower, Hermione could hear her whistling.
As, from the tower, she could not see into the greenhouse, she decided that her best course of action would be to go the long way around the castle and see if she could creep up onto the retaining wall along the back of the greenhouses, to listen through the open ceiling panels, she started down the winding tower stairway headed for the Hogwarts back gate.
As she rounded the west wall of the castle, she began to hear a sound that reminded her distinctly of the neighing of a horse, though it seemed more rhythmic and controlled.
She crested the west meadow, moving toward the retaining wall which interrupted the natural slope, and noticed Professor Firenze a bit down the slope toward the forest edge; his golden palomino hindquarters, tail, and matching mane of thick blonde hair, shimmering bright white in the cool moonlight. His arms were outstretched toward the full moon, and she could only think that he was singing in Centaur. Her first thought was not to disturb him and to try to pass unnoticed, but she realized that he was far too perceptive for that and was most likely already aware of her presence. She turned toward him and plodded down the slope.
“Good evening, Professor Firenze, I hope that I’m not disturbing you?” she asked tentatively.
“Good evening, youngling. You do not disturb,” he replied. “I am finished my welcome song to the moon. It is a tradition amongst my kind.”
“I am honored to have heard what little I did,” Hermione said genuinely.
“You understand and follow the ways of the forest,” Firenze said. “I thank you for your respect.”
“It is not knowledge, sir,” Hermione responded, “It is the way my parents raised me to respect before you learn, to learn before you judge, and to never judge without understanding.”
“You have wise parents it would seem,” he said. “This affords you an advantage in life you may not yet know.” He paused and stamped at the ground with his front hooves, almost as though it were an involuntary action.
“What brings you out this evening, Miss Granger?” Professor Firenze asked.
“Oh, I just felt like a walk in the moonlight,” she responded a bit nervously.
“Come now, Miss Granger, you were doing so well,” he stomped again and snorted. “Untruth does not become you, youngling. Why are you really out tonight?”
Hermione grabbed her left elbow tight with her right hand and put all her weight on her left side. “Well, I was thinking I might eavesdrop on the greenhouse where my friends are having detention,” she said earnestly.
Professor Firenze shook his head roughly causing his hair to cascade across his shoulders and back, flashing in the moonlight. “Much better,” he said. “Did you fear that the truth would get you into trouble?”
“Yes, I suppose I did,” Hermione admitted.
“Let’s go for a walk in the moonlight, you and I,” he said as he turned toward the path along the forest edge. “And, you may ask your questions.”
They walked together quietly for several minutes, moving along the edge of the forest away from the greenhouses. There was something comforting about the slow steady clip, clop of the Centaur’s easy stride. Finally, Hermione formulated a question and dared to ask it. “Do you know what is going on with this evening’s detention of student couples?”
“I do,” came the easy response.
“Will you tell me?” Hermione asked quietly.
“Miss Granger,” Firenze began. “I have observed, in my time so far here at Hogwarts, that you are a diligent and dedicated seeker of knowledge. This is a rare enough trait amongst Wizard kind, so I appreciate it in those who demonstrate it. But I tell you this, as an adult, you must understand that some knowledge comes with added responsibility. Are you prepared to shoulder that responsibility?”
“I believe that I am, sir,” she said easily, thinking that with Harry as her best friend, she was already carrying the weight of considerable knowledge that had to be protected and kept secret. She didn’t see how whatever this was, could possibly compare.
Firenze made a noise that Hermione thought could have been a chuckle, but lacking any extensive experience with Centaurs, it was difficult for her to discern. “How is your Latin?” he asked, not waiting for her to answer. “How would you translate, Irretitus Amor?”
Hermione thought for a minute. “I am not certain. Amor is love, but I am not familiar with Irretitus. The Latin used in modern spells is often hybridized or has been modified over time. So, it depends on context. Retitus sounds a bit like reticent, which could give it a meaning like reserved or withdrawn; on the other hand, I think retus, means net, so it could imply capture or hold. I am not entirely sure, Professor.”
“You are closer than you know. In this context the word would be most appropriately translated as entangled, making the phrase, entangled love.”
“So, is Irretitus Amor having to do with the plant that is growing in the greenhouse?” Hermione asked.
“Yes, that is the name of the plant that Professor Sprout is attempting to cultivate in greenhouse nine,” Firenze confirmed.
“Okay, so why the need for the detentions and the secrecy?” Hermione asked, she still was not forming a whole picture.
“Well, it started long before I was involved with Hogwarts as a professor. But Centaurs too are potion makers and have long traded with Hogwarts school, so I learned about it many years ago,” Firenze said.
“Pomona Sprout came to Hogwarts, as a professor, in nineteen hundred fifty-seven, one year after Professor McGonagall. She had been recruited by Professor Dumbledore himself. It was a difficult recruitment as she was ensconced in an Herbology Greenhouse residence, at the quite prestigious Athens Botanical Museum of Magical Flora. Dumbledore had to promise her she would have complete control of Hogwarts’ greenhouses and Herbology curriculum and allow her certain freedoms to pursue her areas of interest. He agreed and this led to her pursuit of a small amount of commercial growing, for trade and profit.”
“Yes,” Hermione responded, “A friend, Neville Longbottom, was saying that her crop of Mandrake is quite sought after in the Herbology world.”
“Indeed,” Firenze acknowledged. “Professor Sprout grows a number of crops that are considered among the finest ingredients available. Trading for such ingredients helped to forge a gentler relationship between my herd and Hogwarts over the years.
“When she came from Greece, she brought with her a trove of seeds and cuttings, many of which were her ongoing experiments, and others were of such rarity that she was driven to try to preserve them. What she is having planted this evening is both rare and difficult to cultivate.”
“Excuse me, Professor,” Hermione interrupted. “Does this plant, Irretitus Amor, have a more common ingredient name? It wouldn’t also be called Heart Petal, would it?”
“Yes, it is, do you know it?” Firenze asked.
“Well, I had seen it on potions ingredients lists,” Hermione said. “Earlier, before he left for his detention, Harry had asked Neville what he knew about plants that required anything of couples. Neville told us about Love Orchid, Lover’s Vine, and Aphrodite Rose. But once Harry and Ginny had left, I remembered seeing Heart Petal on ingredients lists as well and asked about it. Neville explained that it is a hybrid plant of Lover’s Vine and Aphrodite Rose, used as a substitute for Love Orchid. He also described it as a potion stabilizer. He said it is very difficult to cultivate, and there is something about the plants being tied to the romantic relationship of whoever plants them. I asked him directly if that is what could be being planted, but he said he doubted it.”
“Ah, well, we can forgive him for that,” Firenze stated. “I would guess that as such an interested and knowledgeable student, Professor Sprout most likely has placed a charm upon him to restrict sharing knowledge of many of her cultivation secrets and plant hybrids. The Herbology industry can be quite competitive.”
“But you can tell me more, Professor?” Hermione asked.
“I can tell you that the Irretitus Amor is as you have been told a hybrid and that it does have some odd cultivation characteristics. Like Amantis Vitis, or, Lover’s Vine, Heart Petal produces distinctly male and female seeds. Unlike Lover’s Vine, these seeds need not be planted together, instead, they can be cultivated individually, but they will not sprout for four years once they have been placed in the ground. In the year that they do sprout they will only mature if, during the first full moon following their emergence, a male and female plant are close enough together that they can merge and become one. Upon doing so, they will quickly grow and produce a seed pod, releasing a new crop of seeds that can be planted and will then emerge four years later. This in itself is complicated enough. But, to have any magical potency useful for potion making, the plant must also flower.”
“Oh, I see,” Hermione said. “That must be why as a potion ingredient it is referred to as Heart Petal?”
“Exactly right, Miss Granger,” Firenze said. “It is only the petals that carry any transferable magical characteristics.”
“And that characteristic is presumably love?” Hermione asked.
“Yes, now you understand,” Firenze said.
They walked in silence for another minute, then Hermione spoke again, “Professor. I still do not understand how love gets into the plant?”
“Yes, well, that is the fascinating thing that Professor Sprout was one of the first to discover,” Firenze said. “It seems that if a couple, who are in love, carry out the transplanting of the seedlings, under the appropriate full moon, and make physical contact with the plant, the plant will absorb their potential love, creating a tie between their relationship and the plant itself. If the couple goes on to develop a truly loving relationship the plant will vine and spread, flowering annually and the color of its blooms will reflect the depth of their love, with darker pigmentation representing deeper love. Color is how the petals are graded for effect and efficacy as a potion ingredient. But there is a catch. The planting couple cannot be aware of any of this.”
“So, the transference effect between couple and plant only happens as a consequence of being unaware?” Hermione asked.
“Professor Sprout’s theory is that the planting couple must be newly formed or what we could call fledgling. The love between these couples is no less real, but it is potential and still in a state where it may or may not develop into a true and lasting committed love.” Firenze explained. “It seems that it is the potential that creates the magical link. When the seedlings are planted by an already established committed couple, only the seedpod is produced.”
“Ingenious,” Hermione said. “So, Professor Sprout realized that if she came to Hogwarts, she would have a greater chance of finding the required fledgling couples within the student body. Statistically, most Hogwarts graduates, eventually marry other Hogwarts graduates. And the detentions are merely a ruse to avoid explaining why the plants must be planted in a particular way, at a particular time. The students take the strange conditions of the task as part of the detention, rather than part of the cultivation.”
“And now you understand,” Firenze said. “The required conditions must be guarded by secrecy, because if they become common knowledge there would never be couples whose blissful ignorance of the task allows the transference of potential.”
“How much success has Professor Sprout had with this planting methodology?” Hermione asked.
“Her operational scale is quite small, but she has produced some successful plantings over the years,” Firenze said, “Along the way, the every-four-year sprouting took on an aspect of tradition and expectation as a special event for the professors of Hogwarts. She does not get to pick all the couples by herself, there are nominations, and there are wagers on possible outcomes.”
“You mean they bet on the results?” Hermione said with surprise.
“Some do, indeed,” Firenze confirmed. “Unfortunately, the picking of the couples is not always given the proper observation or consideration and too often the couples are not truly in love, or moving toward a committed sustainable love. They may get a single initial bloom but then when the relationship ends the plant generally dies. So, you can see why ignorance of the process may be preferable to the wellbeing of the participants involved.”
Hermione nodded affirmatively. “I suppose that also explains why the greenhouses are not overflowing with these plants. Have there been any great successes?”
“None recently,” Firenze said. “Four years ago, my understanding is that due to events at the school concerning the Chamber of Secrets, the normal professorial involvement was cancelled. I believe Professor Sprout attempted to pick some couples and hold the detention on her own but there was nothing beyond seeds produced. In the years before that, there were a few pink blossoms, but the plants withered within a few months to a few years, so the relationships failed to develop into lasting love.”
They had come to a split in the path and Firenze stopped walking. “The last great success was in nineteen hundred seventy-seven. That year there was a couple at the school that produced a crop of blooming plants with the darkest, most potent petals anyone has ever known, then or since. It was truly astounding as a potion ingredient and was widely coveted by potion makers in this and several other countries,” he paused. “Unfortunately, the entire crop died abruptly on Halloween night in nineteen hundred eighty-one. And nothing like it has ever been seen again. It was a devastating loss to the Herbology world.”
Hermione strained to give the dates meaning, they seemed familiar and significant. Finally, it clicked into place and she gasped with understanding. “That was Harry’s parents, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, and the entire crop died with them when they were murdered by He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named,” Firenze spoke the truth Hermione was trying to mentally sidestep.
“In the case of the Potters, their love was confirmed through their planting and flourished through their son’s birth. Each annual harvest surpassing the last.” He paused again, allowing time for Hermione to process the information.
“Headmaster Dumbledore himself nominated Harry and Ginny for this planting as he believes that some of Harry’s parents’ love may have somehow transferred to him. It is a belief that most of the professors do not share, not having known the Potters as Dumbledore did,” Firenze said quietly. “It is against my personal belief to engage in for-profit wagering, but I have watched the signs and portents and I believe that the headmaster is correct.
“So, you see, now that your curiosity has been satisfied, I must insist that knowledge of what is happening in greenhouse nine not be revealed to anyone, especially not any of the couples involved, and under no circumstance, to Harry Potter and Ginevra Weasley. At least not until all threat from He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named has been resolved beyond all doubt. Do you understand?”
Hermione sighed deeply. “I understand, professor, and while I do not like keeping secrets, I am fully capable. I promise I will not share this knowledge, especially not with those directly involved, as you say, until all threat has been resolved.”
“Very good,” Firenze said. “I believe you, and I am reasonably certain that telling you was the correct thing, to prevent your natural curiosity from revealing too much of this knowledge through continued pursuit. Now, Miss Granger, I suggest you make your way back up to the castle so you are in your common room when your friends return.”
“Thank you, professor,” Hermione added, as she stepped in the direction of the castle, “for trusting me with this.”
Firenze gave her a smile and a nod and then proceeded away down the path that continued around the forest.
After expelling the two couples, Ginny immediately turned back to Harry to make sure that he was alright, but there was no need, her emotional magic had healed his hand quite completely.
Theo took Daphne out of the room long enough to retrieve a wand and get her cleaned up.
Alice and Tracey picked up the two abandoned watering cans and gathered them all together next to the overturned seedling trays and fouled basins of the now missing two couples.
Silence prevailed for several minutes as the remaining couples focused on the task before them.
Harry and Ginny, being careful to follow the instructions, soon established a rhythm of pluck, dunk, and plant, transferring the seedling and rooting balls into the prepared holes. They seemed to completely lose track of the fact that there were other couples present as they moved in unison.
By the time they had gotten about a third of the way through their planter, Theo and Daphne had finished up. The Slytherin couple announced their successful completion by rather quickly and loudly putting up their basin and watering can. As they hurried to the door Theo spoke. “Well, I’d like to say it’s been aces, but aside from the display of childishness and Ginny’s spectacular wobbly, I’d say the evening’s been a bit of bunk. Still, good luck luvs.” Daphne pulled him from the room and the door swung shut with a clatter.
The three remaining couples continued working diligently and very soon Tracey and Alice were finished up and had begun straightening the mess left by the others. Hayley and Gideon had fallen into a low whispered conversation that sounded almost angry at times and Harry and Ginny were just quietly planting their seedlings with the focus of two teammates setting up a Quidditch score.
Before they left Tracy and Alice came to the last planter and thanked Harry for sharing his measuring stick idea, and Ginny for expelling the first two couples. They quickly said goodbyes and left the greenhouse.
There was quiet again for a few more minutes while Gideon and Hayley finished planting and emptied their basin into their watering can. Gideon suddenly broke the silence. “So, your studies are more important than mine,” he said angrily.
Hayley, who was clearly upset responded, “I never said that.”
“But you would rather stay in London and do this thing at St. Mungo’s than come with me to Egypt?” Gideon accused.
“Must we discuss this here and now?” Hayley asked pleadingly.
“Yes!” Gideon said rudely. “I don’t care who is here! A wife should support her husband first, and I want you to be my wife, so I believe it is reasonable that I expect you to follow me in my pursuits.”
“So, anything I want in my life is second to what you want?” Hayley asked through glassy, tear-filled eyes.
“Exactly so!” Gideon blurted out “If you love me and you are to be my wife, then I must lead and you must follow.”
Harry couldn’t believe what Gideon was saying, he didn’t consider himself properly brought up, but he couldn’t fathom the idea of what even he knew to be such an antiquated attitude toward a committed relationship.
Ginny had simply gasped in disbelief across the planter from Harry.
Hayley was now crying and painfully upset. She quietly responded, “If that is how it must be for you, Gideon, I love you, but I will never be your wife.”
Gideon was silent and looked dumbstruck. He clearly could not believe what she was saying. His face grew suddenly angry and he took a quick step toward her, his finger before him set to waggle angrily upon his opinion.
Harry had seen that face before too many times. Uncle Vernon looked that way when he was about to launch into an angry rant, and occasionally it would lead to a painful slap or some other rough handling. That was entirely unacceptable here, he thought.
“Gideon!” Harry said harshly to the older boy, grabbing his attention from the crying girl before him. “I do not care what your opinions are about what is and is not proper in a relationship. But I can tell you what you are doing right now… This is not love.”
Gideon huffed angrily and turning, stomped out of the greenhouse.
Ginny went over to Hayley and embraced her in a firm hug.
“I am so sorry that you had to witness that,” Hayley said through freely flowing tears. “Thank you,” she said to Ginny as she pulled herself away from the hug. “And, thank you, Harry, Gideon has never hit me, and I wouldn’t tolerate it if he did, but he is too angry for reasonable conversation.” She moved over toward the table and picked up the watering can. “I will just finish this task and I’ll leave you two on your own.” She was moving stiffly as though on autopilot.
“No hurry,” Harry said. “Take whatever time you need.”
Hayley sprinkled out the last of the water from the watering can on the far end of her planter and sobbed heavily.
Ginny stepped forward and took the can. “You head back to the dormitory, we’ll put everything away.”
Hayley nodded, and erupting into heavier sobbing, quickly left the room.
“Will she be alright?” Harry asked. “Should we go after her?”
Ginny set the watering can aside and took Harry by the hand, leading him back to their planter. “She’ll be just fine, but it will take time,” she sighed. “She has wonderful roommates in the dorm, they will take good care of her.”
“But what if Gideon is waiting for her out there,” Harry protested. “What if he gets too angry, he is a good guy, but what he said?”
“I heard him, Harry,” Ginny said calmly, “I didn’t think he thought that way. Sounded like a lot of pure-blood drivel to me. Something tells me, though, you gave him plenty to think about.”
Harry signed heavily. “It has certainly been an interesting detention,” he said. “Let’s get this all finished up so we can get out of here, too.”
Ginny smiled up at Harry and he leaned down to kiss her. She responded in kind.
It only took them a few minutes to finish up their planter and gently water their perfect row of seedlings. They took the time to pull all the basins and watering cans into the other room and Scourgify them before stacking them in their original order on the back wall. Harry collected the dowels they had used and, matching them together with the cut ends, performed Reparo, and put them away. When they were satisfied that all was in order, they left greenhouse eight hand in hand.
It was only half ten, so they opted for a short walk in the brilliant moonlight before returning to the castle.
In the staffroom only a few Professors remained. Many had departed quickly after Professor Snape’s outburst, as understanding his meaning, they were easily able to deduce the outcomes of their various wagers. Knowledge of a bet lost seemed to take any remaining fun out of the evening.
“My, my, my, what a perfectly delightful evening,” Horace Slughorn said as he stood at the hors d'oeuvres, table, actively filling a series of cellophane bags with tasty delights and shoving them into his pockets. “Plenty of surprises to witness. I dare say some will regret departing ahead of the breakup, but all and all an enjoyable gathering.” He spied a bowl of crystalized pineapple he had not noticed during early trips to the trough, and gleefully pulled an even larger bag from somewhere within his robes.
“You are not wrong, Horace,” Poppy Pomfrey responded from the pool where she was still standing with Minerva and Pomona.
Professor McGonagall swept her wand in a broad pass across the room and all of the scrying pools went darkly clear, the image of Harry and Ginny walking away hand in hand, fading out of view. “I dare say, Pomona, I am beginning to think you are the real winner of the evening. Regardless of the wagering, it now appears that you are likely to get a usable, even sellable, crop from this planting.”
“Oh, I do hope so,” Pomona said in an effusive girlish tone. Her eyes were still sparkling from witnessing tender acts of innocent young love and genuine kindness that had been demonstrated by Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley. She chortled uneasily, thinking suddenly, that she hoped their love was innocent. “I best get to the greenhouse and make sure everything is secured for the night.” She strode to the door. “Good night, all,” she said as she slipped out the main door.
“Good night,” Poppy and Horace chorused.
The few other remaining professors also departed with similar salutations.
After seeing Madam Pomfrey out, Professor McGonagall stepped next to Professor Slughorn at the buffet table. “You know, Horace,” she said with a chuckle, “if you simply ask them, the Hogwarts house elves will bring you any sort of food you desire directly to your chambers.”
“Oh, yes, I am aware, Minerva,” he said apologetically. “But please forgive the ingrained habits of an old potions master who has found himself too oft on the run, in recent years.”
“Of course,” McGonagall nodded.
He tucked away the bag he had finished filling. “Very good, Well, I will wish you a very good night then, Minerva.” He bowed slightly and turning, made his way to the back door.
“Good night, Horace,” McGonagall said with genuine affection for her colleague.
Minerva McGonagall looked slowly around the room, the scrying pools had all silently disappeared and the trays of food, now no longer required, disappeared as well. She turned to the slate where all the various wagers were recorded and chuckled to herself at some of the choices noted on the board.
She hoped that after a few days’ growth, Pomona would be able to confirm what everyone now suspected would be the outcome of Harry and Ginny’s planting. After witnessing such an emotional display as Ginny’s, there seemed little doubt that Albus had been right to nominate them. He had given the impression that his faith was all in Harry, but he must have also seen something in Ginny as well. One day perhaps she would learn not to second guess the man. Sometimes, she had to admit, it infuriated her that he was so unquestionably gifted both in magic and perception.
She did not really concern herself with the outcome of the betting financially, her wagering was always small and more a matter of personal predictive pride, but she was pleased to note that she was among the minority that had wagered on faith in the Gryffindor couples. She would win on Harry and Ginny, and very unfortunately, she thought, lose on Hayley and Gideon. And then there was Cormac McLaggen, how he had ever been placed in Gryffindor House, she could only wonder. Perhaps if he’d made more friends within the house, instead of choosing an equally immature mate such as Eddie. She sincerely hoped that after leaving Hogwarts he would one day mature into his full potential.
It would certainly be an interesting morning tomorrow when the professors gathered to settle what wagering they could, she thought. While she always enjoyed the celebratory atmosphere of this little Hogwarts tradition, as it had come to be, she was also always happy when the evening was over as well.
Something about watching in secret with the students not knowing felt morally questionable to her. On the other hand, as a teacher and administrator, she also knew the fact finding and disciplinary value of such an ability and was always concerned by its potential for abuse. As Deputy Head, without the knowledge of the attending professors, she was assigned to oversee and be responsible for that aspect of the evening’s scrying as well. That weight always sat a bit uneasily.
She passed her wand in a broad arc before the slate, confirming that all wards were properly affixed to prevent any overnight editing. There had never been such an incident that she was aware of, but this too fell under her responsibility as Deputy Head.
As she walked the corridors toward her personal quarters, she reviewed the events of the evening. Considering the brilliant display on Miss Weasley’s part of emotional, wandless magic she suspected she may have been underestimating Harry and Ginny, and Harry’s consistent friends Ron and Hermione. She’d always considered their annual adventures somewhat juvenile and the product of dumb luck. Perhaps she would need to reconsider this line of thinking.
From her perspective the evening’s most dominant players had all been her Gryffindor students and she had seen both the worst and the best of the House she led with pride. Still, she could not help but wonder about the quiet understated performance of Alice and Tracey, she would be very interested in the outcome of their planting. She had never given the two girls much thought as a couple, but she’d assumed that was because they were not from her House, she had never entertained the idea that she might harbor any particular bias.
Regardless, she would need to be well rested in order to oversee the wagering payouts in the morning. Professor Vector was always extremely accurate, but sometimes there were differences of interpretation.
She sighed as she shut her chamber door behind herself.
The now empty corridor quickly faded to darkness.
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Chapter 4: Chapter 4 - Findings & Futures
Author's Notes: I do hope everyone enjoys this story. I wrote it because the plot bunny jumped out at me unexpectedly one day and just like with my story Do Over wouldn't leave me alone. It felt very different to me than what I anticipated a 'Detention' story might be, so I am very glad I took the time to write it down.
Also: A very special thanks to Arnel, for putting up with me through the process and editing my scribbles with such care. THANK YOU!
Irretitus Amor - Part Four
Findings & Futures
After the odd night of detentions, life at Hogwarts went right back to normal. Classes carried on, and Harry’s preoccupation with Draco continued despite the whole debacle in the boys’ bathroom that had landed him Saturday detentions for the rest of the term. He was preoccupied by when he might be able to retrieve the potion book from the Room of Requirement and Snape was still to be avoided whenever possible.
With Quidditch finished for the season Hermione was making her customary term-end push for revising and finishing the year academically strong. As usual, she was involved in editing and suggesting improvements for both Ron and Harry’s final papers and any special projects across every subject. With Ginny now a firm fourth in their little circle of friends, Hermione was including her in these efforts as well, doing everything she could to help her prepare for her O.W.L.s.
The night of detention had been thoroughly explained, told, and retold in minute detail. Nearly a week on they were still telling about how Cormac had started the mud fight and how it evolved quickly into dangerous chaos. In retrospect, they found the whole story hilarious, but Ginny remained adamant that her expulsion of the two couples was completely warranted and no harsher than they deserved. A week removed from the event both Harry and Ginny recalled the whole experience as similar to one of their pleasant walks. It had turned out to be something they’d enjoyed.
Morning walks continued now and Harry and Ginny had taken to having a second in the late evening as well, if they could spare time from their frantic revising. The weather remained unusually delightful for the time of year. When classes were over for the day evenings were spent socializing and revising as the end of term approached.
Hermione loved this time of year, but she had a sense of foreboding as the end of June approached, as Harry’s typical end-of-term, monumental, and often tragic, event had not yet manifested, and she felt that this year was for some reason going to be worse than those proceeding it. She couldn’t predict what it would be, but something bad was coming, and there was the fact that Hermione had just that afternoon found an old article from the Daily Prophet in the library that she felt proved the owner of the Advanced Potion-Making book, had been a girl named Eileen Prince. She was hesitating to bring it up as things had, despite everything, returned to an almost pleasant equilibrium.
True to her word, she had not revealed any of the information she had gained from Professor Firenze on the night of the detentions. She had, however, managed to glean every detail she could from Harry and Ginny’s retelling of the event. And she had to admit that knowing what she did, her curiosity was still piqued.
On Friday, June twenty-seventh, when members of the victorious Gryffindor Quidditch team suggested that they all head down to the pitch for a midnight scrimmage against any interested house members, Hermione was very supportive and sent her three best companions on their way to the pitch saying she would be along after a little while to watch.
As an end-of-term event, there had always been a great deal of leniency shown to such violations of school rules in the pursuit of a bit of fun.
Once the common room had all but emptied, Hermione set her revising aside and quietly made her way to greenhouse eight. She’d have liked to borrow Harry’s cloak, but lacking that, she took a circuitous route, staying in the shadows as much as possible so as not to be discovered and questioned. When she arrived, the greenhouses were all dark and she could hear the raucous activity down on the Quidditch pitch. As she had suspected there was no lock on the outer door to greenhouse eight and she slipped in quickly and quietly. She illuminated the end of her wand to assist in making her way to the back of the room where she found the locked door to greenhouse nine, just as Harry had described it. She examined the padlock with a few ward detector spells, but it seemed as though it was just the Muggle lock it appeared to be and so she was able to open it easily using a simple Alohomora. Hermione took this as support of Professor Firenze’s assertion that Professor Sprout used secret-keeping enchantments to restrict information rather than elaborate physical security precautions.
Hermione removed the lock from its hasp and slipped quietly into the greenhouse. The moon was still bright enough in the sky that she found it quite easy to navigate her way in greenhouse nine without her wand light.
She approached the first planting box, where she understood Alice Morgan and Tracey Cauldwell had done the planting. Just as Harry had explained, they too had used Harry’s placement method resulting in a very neat and even alignment of plants. To Hermione’s surprise, there was more growth here than she would have expected after one week. All one hundred of the plants in this box were thriving. Where each had originally been two seedlings there was now a single stalk about as thick as Hermione’s thumb and standing about sixteen centimeters before branching into two curling leafing vines. At the point of divergence there was a bulbous seed pod and at the tip of each pod what looked like soon-to-emerge light pink, almost white flowers. Within this first box about every fifth plant seemed to be about to flower.
Hermione moved to the next planting box where she understood Cho Chang and Cormac McLaggen would have done their planting. She was not surprised at all that the majority of this box contained only withered dead seedlings in a haphazard irregular row. About a quarter of the plants toward the far end seemed to have been planted properly according to the directions, though they were clumped more tightly together than was called for, and of these perhaps a dozen had sprouted and seemed to be growing. They were much smaller, about half the size of the previous box, and where they seemed to be developing seed pods, the ends of the pods were closed tight, showing no indication of any flowering to come.
The next box where Marietta Edgecombe and Eddie Carmichael would have been, was no better than the one before it with nearly identical results.
Hermione moved on to the next planter box where she believed Daphne Greengrass and Theo Knott had done the planting. The results here were much closer to Alice and Tracey’s planting though not nearly as neatly spaced. It appeared that all one hundred of their plants were thriving and producing seedpods, but there was no indication here of any flowering to come.
The next planting box was that of Hayley Olson and Gideon Druery. Hermione approached it slowly, and with great hope. She was well aware of what had happened between the two on the night of detention and had been there when a balling, distraught Hayley had returned miserably to the common room.
Hayley had been received by her dorm companions and swept away to the privacy of their room.
In the days that followed, Gideon had become a bit of a pariah. Even his best mates seemed to feel that his thinking was antiquated and too harsh. If he was getting the message, he had not yet shown any indication.
The planting here was fairly even and orderly, but it lacked the clear precision of the first box. The plants, however, appeared to be thriving. They were thicker and taller even than those in Alice and Tracey’s box with bulbous seed pods and small pinkish blooms on nearly half the plants.
This meant, as Hermione understood it, that the potential for love between them was genuine. Despite their disagreement and breakup, there was a real possibility. She found herself wishing that Gideon would come to his senses and allow communication and understanding to win in their favor. She hated the idea that this obvious potential might wither to nothing in a week or a month. Hermione found herself regretting she’d promised to keep silent about what she now knew.
Perhaps it was her proximity to the plants but she suddenly felt a profound sadness at the prospect of pending failure, in the face of such potential. She had to step back and remind herself that this was not what she had come here to see.
She cast her eye at the final planting box, this would be Harry and Ginny’s and she felt a lump of hope swell in her belly. The position of the moon in the sky was casting a shadow from the back wall of the greenhouse to fall over this last box and she couldn’t make out any detail, though it appeared to her that there was more mass there than in any of the other boxes.
Suddenly, the torches in the greenhouse burst to life and she heard the Headmaster’s voice. “Miss Granger.”
Startled, she turned toward the voice and reflexively uttered, “I’m sorry.”
Dumbledor stepped silently into greenhouse nine from the open doorway. He was carefully carrying his wounded hand against his torso, and he looked wearier than she had ever seen him. “Sorry about what, Hermione?” he asked without a hint of accusation. “I am aware of your conversation with Professor Firenze, so I rather expected your curiosity would drive you to this bit of minor mischief.” He continued to move toward her. “Splendid, aren’t they,” he motioned to the planting boxes she had already seen in the moonlight.
Now in the torchlight, she could see the rich green of the plants and the pale pink of the small emerging blossoms in the box next to her.
“It is sad to think of what might become of these fragile young vines if the couples who planted them lose their way to love.” He reached out and gently stroked one of the seed pods in the first box.
“Yes, sir, it is,” Hermione agreed.
“Well, Miss Granger, you broke in here tonight presumably to discover the outcome of your best friend’s planting,” Dumbledore said still without anger or accusation in his tone. “I suggest you turn and look.”
“Your heart already knows the truth,” Dumbledore encouraged, “I suggest you let your eyes confirm it.”
Hermione spun around to face the last planting box and gasped excitedly. “I… I hadn’t imagined.”
The final planting box was full of a hundred vining plants that far and away surpassed the other boxes. Their stalks were thick and lush and the vining tendrils were exploding to the edge of the box and dripping over the edges, thick with deep green heart-shaped leaves, and on each plant a heavy seed pod rested, topped with a deep crimson blossom.
“Professor, how is this possible?” she exclaimed.
“Love,” he said softly.
“This means… it means.” Hermione was lost for words.
“It means, as you no doubt suspected, that Harry loves Ginny, and Ginny, in turn, loves Harry, with a potential greater than I have ever witnessed,” Dumbledore said. “They told you I am certain about the incident during the detention concerning the rock cast by Cormac McLaggen?”
“Yes,” Hermione responded, “Cormac threw the stone and Harry caught it.”
“What they were likely unable to express, is that at that moment Ginny’s heightened emotion, redirected by Harry’s gentle intervention, manifested fluidly from her to him, physically healing his broken hand. And covering their joined hands in the fullness of their love’s potential. As they completed their planting this potential passed in great quantity into these plants, yielding the most amazing results.” He paused. “Professor Sprout says it surpasses even the plants that remained after his parent’s planting those many years ago.”
“Oh, Professor,” Hermione, uttered still unable to find full expression.
“And now you know, a terrible truth,” Dumbledore said, a hint of sadness creeping into his voice.
“Terrible? No, sir, this is wonderful,” she protested.
“Wonderful, yes,” he said, “but terrible because it is a truth that you cannot under any circumstances share with your friends.”
Hermione’s expression turned from glee to sorrow. “You are right, Professor, that is terrible.”
They lingered a few moments, then Dumbledore escorted Hermione from the greenhouse, replacing the lock and leaving no trace of their presence.
Outside the greenhouse, on the cobblestone walk, Hermione turned. “I understand what’s at stake, Professor. I will not tell. I promise,” she said earnestly.
They could hear laughter and joy rising from the Quidditch pitch in the distance, where the Gryffindor students were gathered in play. Dumbledor smiled at her. “I know,” he said quietly. “Now you should go and join your housemates,” he looked in the direction of the pitch.
Hermione smiled hesitantly in return. “Thank you for indulging my curiosity,” she said, as she stepped off in the direction of the pitch.
Hermione was several paces away when Dumbledore silently raised his wand and cast a memory charm upon her. “I sorely regret that is a risk I cannot take. Your knowledge will be suppressed until Harry’s fate is truly resolved,” he said quietly.
A single tear slid down the elder Wizard’s cheek as he turned away, and cradling his wounded hand, made his way sorrowfully back to the castle he knew he would soon be no more a part of.
Seven years later, Harry Potter agreed for the second time since departing the grounds after the cleanup of the final battle, to return to Hogwarts. He had returned only once for a very brief visit to ensure that a portrait of Severus Snape was properly hung in the headmaster’s office.
Much had happened during those intervening years, and much had healed as well. None of the four had returned to attend Hogwarts, though it had reopened for the fall term that very September. Minerva McGonagall was named Headmistress, and Pomona Sprout became her Deputy Head.
Hermione, after undertaking makeup studies while interning at the Ministry, returned to Hogwarts in the spring and sat her N.E.W.T. exams. She was then offered a permanent position at the Ministry of Magic, in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures where she worked for a year before transferring to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.
Ginny, before the summer ended, had been offered a position to play professionally for the Holyhead Harpies Quidditch team. With Hermione’s encouragement, she too undertook additional studies and returned in the spring to sit her N.E.W.T.s.
Harry and Ron had been invited by Minister Kingsley Shaklebolt to enter the Ministry’s new Auror training program and both had begun building careers, rapidly rising through the ranks. After two years, however, Ron left his Auror career to partner with his brother, George, in the more lucrative running and expansion of Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes.
Though very busy building their individual lives, they all remained in close contact, often at the insistence of Molly Weasley, who made them promise never to miss Sunday gatherings at the Burrow. And of course, Harry, and the whole Weasley family never missed a Harpies game, where they enthusiastically supported Ginny.
Very soon after deciding to leave the Ministry, Ron proposed to Hermione and they were wed in a simple outdoor ceremony on a perfect summer evening at the Burrow, followed by a wonderous reception where, not to be overshadowed, Harry and Ginny announced their greatly anticipated engagement and pending nuptials.
Within five years, Hermione ascended to take the position of Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, and a year later Harry became the youngest-ever Head of the Auror Office. Ginny, during that time, finished her fifth year of professional Quidditch and retired as Captain of the Holyhead Harpies, immediately transitioning to a position as a Quidditch commentator and contributing correspondent to the sports desk of the Daily Prophet.
Two years after first acquiring the position of Headmistress, Minerva McGonagall had begun inviting Harry annually to return to Hogwarts to address the graduates as the commencement speaker. Harry had always politely declined, until now.
So it was that on this beautiful June day in two thousand-three, Harry stood before the shining hopeful, and even adoring faces of Hogwarts graduates, to usher them forward into the wide Wizarding world. He could have done without the pomp and circumstance, and he felt he had fumbled through his speech, but he was happy he had, at Ginny’s insistence, finally returned to see the school vibrant and thriving, and to put some closure on his feelings of guilt and responsibility.
All the professors had been so happy to see him and positively effusive in their praise of his success. There were fewer familiar faces as Professor Slughorn had years before returned to his life of retirement, as had Professor Sprout, leaving an opening that had been filled by Neville Longbottom just the year before. And there were newer professors he had never known in the positions of Potions Master, Wizard History, Transfiguration, and Defense Against the Dark Arts, the last being a position Headmistress McGonagall openly hinted would be available to Harry at any time he might consider it.
All in all, it had been a good day and a successful visit, and as the evening reception wound down, and quests began departing, Harry asked Ginny if she might care to recreate one of their evening walks around the grounds. Ginny had readily agreed and hand in hand they had headed down a familiar old path toward the lake and a welcome respite from socializing.
They wandered the many pathways, pausing to recreate stolen kisses beneath friendly old trees, removed their shoes to dip their toes in the cool lake water, and generally sought to recapture what was good from an earlier, more innocent time, shedding the dark veil that had long overshadowed it.
They even, finally, and purposely visited the white tomb where lay the remains of, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, revered former Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry; Grand Sorcerer, Order of Merlin, First Class; and Once Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards and Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, but, mostly, Harry’s friend, where Harry had a moment of silence and said a truly healing farewell.
As they made their way along the path toward the castle, past the lovely new Quidditch pitch, and up the slope toward the greenhouses, Harry squeezed Ginny’s hand and said, “This has been a surprising day. Thank you, Ginny, for encouraging me to finally return to Hogwarts. I see now how much I really needed this.”
“You are welcome, my love,” Ginny said as she returned the slight squeeze. They walked a few more paces before she spoke again. “Harry, do you remember that detention we had together in greenhouse nine?”
Much had happened to overshadow that lone night almost exactly seven years before, but Harry paused and said, “I do. I remember the mud fight and my hurt hand, and you healing it. But not too much else.” He chuckled, “I wonder if any of those couples lasted, or are we the only ones?”
“Do you remember at our wedding reception, what Hermione told us about that night?” Ginny asked.
“Vaguely, there was a lot of fire-whiskey flowing that night,” he confessed. “I do recall she said that she had remembered discovering what those plants were that Professor Sprout had us planting and how she had never told us because at the time she had been made to promise not to. Something about they were tied to the love of the planting couple, and that she had secretly snuck into the greenhouse to see if ours had survived or something? Hermione never could hold much liquor and she was quite sozzled that night as I recall.”
Ginny giggled in the way that Harry had always loved. “True, but I have often wondered about it.”
“Well, we’ll pass by the greenhouses. We can have a look if you like?” he said.
Ginny smiled her agreement, and they kept walking. “Harry,” she said a moment later. “I’ve decided I’m going to accept the offer to become the Sports Desk Editor at the Daily Prophet. I’m tired of all the travel associated with game commentating.”
“That’s wonderful, Ginny,” Harry said, barely concealing his surprise. “As long as you’re sure it is what you want?” he said genuinely.
“It is,” she added with certainty. “I want to be home more and focus more on us.”
“I can hardly object to that,” he said, giving her hand another gentle squeeze.
They rounded the retaining wall and arrived at the greenhouses.
The end of greenhouse eight, which they had discovered years before was the secretive greenhouse nine, was nearly devoid of its glass. Massive vines had crept from the openings and embedded themselves in the crevasses between the retaining wall stones. The whole wall was a splash of thick greenery and the greenhouse itself looked as though vines were exploding from it. The mass had spread to the ground and nearly reached the path where they were standing. Throughout the cover of vines were hundreds, upon hundreds of deep crimson blossoms with petals so richly colored that the tips were nearly black.
“Oh, Harry!” Ginny gasped. “Could this be… us?”
Harry strode up to the wall, smiling, and leaned in to smell one of the flowers. He inhaled deeply and exhaled very slowly. “I think it might be, Ginny. To me, this smells just like you!”
Ginny rushed over and smelled the blossom herself. “Nope, it smells like you,” she said.
“Well, I’m gobsmacked,” Harry said.
They peeked in through the greenhouse windows, and sure enough the vines were originating from the very planter box where they had stood those seven years before. It seemed they had taken over the whole space and crept everywhere.
“Oh, look,” Ginny pointed, “there seem to be pink flowers too, originating from the first box as well. You don’t suppose?”
“I suppose everything, Love,” he said as he pulled her close, “We cannot be the only couple to find love.” He kissed her passionately, pressing her against the greenhouse wall.
He pulled back suddenly. “I’ll be buggered! I could swear several more flowers just opened as I kissed you.” He looked amazed.
Ginny took his hand and led him a few steps away from the greenhouse wall. “You just did.”
“I did what?” He asked laughing.
“Swore,” she said, smiling.
They laughed together for a few moments, then Ginny stepped closer. “Harry,” she said again. “I have one last surprise for you,” she said in nearly a whisper.
“What could be better than all of this confirmation of our enduring love?” he asked.
“I’m pregnant,” she said.
Harry swept her up in his arms and twirled her around, as she giggled merrily.
He lowered her back to the ground and there, surrounded by a sea of crimson blossoms, beneath the colorful backdrop of the setting sun, he kissed her.
Just like it was the very first time.
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