A very tired-looking tawny owl sought out Pomona Sprout in her office near greenhouse three. Although Soren appeared to have been flying for days, he dutifully offered her the parchment attached to his leg before heading for his perch. Pomona paused in front of the Flutterby bush she’d been pruning, wiped her hands on her apron, and unrolled the parchment with still-grubby fingers. She scanned what seemed like a hastily-penned note – complete with ink blotches. Some things never changed.
“Hawaii?! What on Earth is that boy doing in Hawaii, of all places?”
Pomona was astounded. Several days ago, she’d sent Soren on a quest to find Neville Longbottom, a letter attached to his leg:
“My dear Neville,
The time has come for me to retire from Hogwarts, and I can think of no better person than you to take over as Herbology professor. I need to know that my greenhouses will be left in the right hands. The Venomous Tentacula has been particularly testy with my students this year, and I know you could keep it under a tight rein. Please say you’ll return.
It seemed that Neville was happy studying native medicinal plants in Hawaii, and had no interest in coming home to Hogwarts.
“Thanks for the offer, Professor,” Neville’s response had read, “but I’m currently researching the potential magical uses of Pandanus odoratissimus, which the Kānaka Maoli people call “hala” and use for everything from chest pains to postpartum relief to easing constipation. If you’re ever on Maui, I’d love for you to come and visit.”
A soft hooting sound reminded Pomona that she hadn’t rewarded her owl – after such a long flight, he was due a whole bushel of owl treats. She offered Soren a palmful of the meaty snacks, which he greedily snapped up in his sharp beak. Satisfied, the tawny owl retired to his perch across the room for a well-deserved nap.
With a sigh, Pomona rolled up Neville’s parchment, tucking it away in a small cubby-hole in a desk that was cluttered with quills, parchments, and assorted potting implements. As she went back to her pruning, she swiped absently at the frizzy grey hair that peeked out from under her patched hat – it was always hanging down into her eyes, lately. Maybe it was time to adopt a Minerva-style bun and be done with it.
Pomona had been teaching Herbology at Hogwarts for many, many years, and was ready to retire to a life of gardening for her own purposes – if she never cultivated another bubotuber again, it would still be too soon for her. While Pomona loved her plants, she truly hated working with bubotubers. In her opinion, Neville Longbottom was the best Herbologist to ever graduate from Hogwarts. Pomona had identified his aptitude in his first year, and from that point on, she’d moulded him as her replacement, confident that her greenhouses could be left in his capable hands.
“That boy!” muttered Pomona. “Doesn’t he realize he’s needed here?”
Neville Longbottom had changed in many ways in the last dozen or so years. He’d finally stopped growing, and now towered over his friends. In the wet heat that was common on Maui, he’d taken to wearing his hair long, tied back with a leather thong. Having finally lost the last of his baby-fat, he was no longer the round-faced boy he’d been at Hogwarts. He usually forgot to perform a Shaving charm in the morning, and so he sported a permanent five o’clock shadow.
Neville had never mastered a good Cooling charm, so he was dressed in the Muggle summer clothes he’d become accustomed to wearing in Hawaii: cut-off denims, a loose-fitting tropical print shirt, and flip-flops. While Neville couldn’t imagine wearing these clothes back home, he felt comfortable in them, and had been wearing similar clothes for most of his years in Hawaii. He just wished his feet weren’t quite so ugly, since they were on display all the time – but he couldn’t imagine wearing shoes and socks in the heat. With a grimy handkerchief, he swiped at the sweat beading on his brow.
“Hey, Nev, pass me that canteen, would you?”
Neville grinned at Kenike, and tossed him the canteen. The tall, dark-skinned Hawaiian caught it easily, draining it in one long swallow. Neville watched as Kenike’s Adam’s apple bobbed in his neck, and swallowed nervously before looking away.
Kenike was the Potions Master at Huna Academy, Hawaii’s exclusive Wizarding school. He and the Herbologist made a good team – research-wise, anyway. Between Neville’s shyness and Kenike’s wife, any relationship outside a professional friendship was out of the question.
“Think we have enough for now? I’d really like to get out of this sun for a while.”
They’d been collecting the hala roots that Neville was using in his research into male pregnancy potions since early morning, and the sun was now high in the sky.
A shadow blocked out the sunlight.
“Professor Sprout! What are you doing here?”
Pomona looked more frizzled than usual – and horribly out of place in her long, dusty robes. She’d witnessed the exchange between the two men, and an idea had begun to form in her head.
“Mr. Longbottom! Is that any way to address a tired old woman who’s travelled nearly half-way around the world to see you? The least you could do is offer me some tea. And who is this fine-looking young man?”
Neville blushed, and stammered, “I… I’m sorry, Professor. Kenike, please allow me to introduce to you my mentor, Professor Pomona Sprout, of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in Scotland. Professor Sprout, Kenike has been working with me on a personal research project.”
“Delighted to meet you, Kenike! How long have you and Neville been a couple?”
In a sudden movement, Neville grabbed Pomona’s arm, and she felt a familiar squeezing sensation as they Disapparated.
“Well, dear, I think you need to search your heart. I saw the way you looked at him, Neville. You cannot deny that you are attracted to him.”
“We’re research partners, Professor, nothing more. I am working on a potion, and you know as well as I do, that potions were not my forte.” Neville placed a steaming mug of tea in front of Pomona, though he favoured lemonade in this heat.
Pomona squeezed a slice of lemon into her tea, and stirred it before taking a sip. Even though it was hot and stuffy in Neville’s small cabin – just barely a step up from a grass hut, really – nothing beat a hot cup of tea to perk a woman up after a long journey. She’d actually had to take a Muggle aeroplane from a place called Vancouver – there were no available Portkeys to Hawaii on such short notice, and she did not share Rolanda’s fondness for broomsticks.
“My dear boy,” Pomona started, as she dabbed at her face with a handkerchief, “what is so special about this potion, this plant, that you cannot grow it in the Hogwarts greenhouses? Or research it with Professor Weasley?”
“Who? Surely not Ron.” Neville may have been Hogwarts’ worst potions student in its long history, but he was fairly confident that Ron Weasley wasn’t far behind him.
“Of course not, dear.”
“Did Charlie finally give up on dragons, then?” Neville’s curiosity was piqued – he didn’t know a lot about Ron’s second-oldest brother, and working with him at Hogwarts held the promise of exciting tales about dragons and Quidditch.
“No, dear, Ron’s eldest brother, Bill, is our new Potions Master,” Pomona continued. “He was devastated when Fleur died-”
“Fleur is dead?” Neville interrupted. “When? How?”
“Neville, you’ve been away for a very long time. I had presumed that you were keeping abreast of matters at home by taking the Prophet’s International Edition, but it seems to me that you have missed out on most of the news.” Pomona sat back, and sipped at her tea – Earl Grey, she thought, enjoying how the flavour of bergamot mixed with the lemon she’d added – while she studied the young man in front of her.
“Professor, I couldn’t stay there after Gran passed – my parents don’t recognize me, and my friends have all settled down into conventional relationships.” Neville drained his lemonade in a long swallow that mirrored Kenike’s, earlier. He went to the refrigerator for a refill, flip-flops slapping quietly against his heels. “I love plants, Professor – once my friends married off, all I had left was my Mimbulus mimbletonia, so I decided to go somewhere that I could expand my knowledge of plants.”
“There’s nothing wrong with that, dear boy…”
“In case you haven’t noticed, Professor, I’m no longer a boy.”
“Of course, dear,” Pomona responded as she drained her mug. She nodded as Neville gestured towards the pot, and he refilled it for her. “In any case, you really should have kept in touch with someone back home. As I was saying, Bill was shattered when Fleur and their son died in childbirth.”
“I had no idea they’d had another child after Victoire… how terrible it must have been for Bill to lose both his wife and his new son that way.” Neville’s sympathy for the older man showed in his face – his brown eyes were shining with unshed tears.
“Don’t worry about Bill, dearie… he’s been doing quite well as Hogwarts’ Potions Master. He’s really quite clever – he did earn all twelve OWLs, you know. Being at Hogwarts has allowed him the time to research a potion of his own – a right Severus Snape, our Bill Weasley is – when it comes to potions, that is.” Pomona sipped at her tea again, and grimaced as she realized she’d forgotten to add lemon to this cup.
“Bill is developing a potion? What kind?” Neville leaned forward in his chair, placing his elbows on the tiny kitchen table. It wobbled a little under his weight, causing some of Pomona’s tea to slosh over the rim of her mug.
Neville got up to grab the dish rag from the sink, and wiped up the spilled tea before Pomona continued, “I’m sure you remember that he was attacked by Fenrir Greyback the night Albus died…”
“Of course I do. But Greyback wasn’t transformed when he attacked Bill. He shouldn’t have developed lycanthropy.” Neville responded, a little confused about the turn of conversation, but relieved that his former professor and mentor was no longer asking about his relationship with Kenike.
“Well, dear, as the years have passed, what had started out as just a taste for raw meat has developed into quite an aggressive mood disorder. So, Bill has been working on an alternate form of the Wolfsbane Potion, for victims such as himself who only suffer some of the symptoms of lycanthropy.”
“He’s not transforming at the full moon?” Neville wondered, and shifted in his seat again, being careful not to jolt the table again.
“No, dear. While he doesn’t undergo a transformation the way a true werewolf would, he does become quite moody as the time of the full moon approaches, and withdraws from his family and friends to protect them from his temper.” Pomona had finished her second cup of tea by now, and was twisting the mug in circles on the table.
Neville was having trouble reconciling the image of Ron’s oldest brother as a moody semi-werewolf. “I can’t even imagine Bill Weasley as having a temper. He always seemed so cool and easy-going when I saw him.”
“Unfortunately, between the worsening lycanthropy, grief over his wife’s death and raising Victoire as a single father, Bill Weasley is a changed man.”
An idea was beginning to form in Neville’s mind. Though his recent focus had been on hala roots, when he first arrived in Hawaii, he did some work with kava – well-known in the South Pacific for its calming effects. Now that Professor Sprout had exposed his crush on Kenike, Neville was no longer comfortable with the idea of continuing his research with the man – it was difficult enough to be a gay man in a straight world, but when the object of your affections was also straight, it was downright nerve-wracking.
“Well, Professor, I suppose I could try and transplant some hala trees to the greenhouses… but I’m not sure I want anyone from Hogwarts to know about the potion I’m researching.” Neville blushed, and got up to start tidying up the kitchen. In such a small house, it seemed even smaller when it was cluttered, so Neville made sure to keep things neat, in vast contrast to Pomona’s office in the Hogwarts Greenhouses.
“Why on Earth not? Research is a noble cause, dear boy.” Pomona got up to help Neville with the dishes. It was soothing to do things the Muggle way, sometimes. Soap and water were just as effective as a Scouring Charm, in her books.
“I realize that, Professor, but the potion I am researching … er, enhances male fertility,” Neville mumbled in the general direction of the sink.
“I beg your pardon? Do speak up, Ne-”
“Alright!” Neville interrupted. “I am working on a potion which enhances fertility in men - men who don’t like women. It is a male pregnancy potion – I have always wanted children, but since I’m gay…” Neville trailed off, as if suddenly realizing he’d just come out to his former professor. Not that she hadn’t guessed his inclinations, after that embarrassing scene with Kenike, but actually coming out and saying it somehow made it more difficult to ignore.
Neville sat down again at the table, the damp dishrag falling from his fingers as he leaned his head on his hands. Pomona finished drying the teapot before joining him. For a few moments, neither of them spoke.
“Perhaps it is time for a change, Neville.”
Neville looked at Pomona, and simply nodded.