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SIYE Time:8:38 on 29th February 2024
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Irretitus Amor
By Jeograph

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Category: SIYE Challenges new, The Detention Challenge (2023-1)
Characters:Albus Dumbledore, Harry/Ginny, Hermione Granger, James Potter, Lily Potter, Minerva McGonagall, Neville Longbottom, Other, Ron Weasley, Severus Snape
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Humor, Romance
Warnings: Violence
Story is Complete
Rating: G
Reviews: 17
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.
Hitcount: Story Total: 4901; Chapter Total: 884
Awards: View Trophy Room




Author's Notes:
Special thanks to Arnel, for her services a beta reader.




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Irretitus Amor - Part Three
Detention


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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