Fandom: Harry Potter
Prompt: 53) In hatred as in love, we grow like the thing we brood upon. What we loathe, we graft into our very soul. -- Mary Renault.
Summary: She has no children, and thousands of children. Pomona Sprout. Thanks to kennahijja for her beta work. All remaining errors are mine. Dedicated to stick_around and themolesmother. Thanks to gehayi for allowing me to post it so late.
Only one student in that generation had the hands of a Healer. Frank Longbottom's face has faded with the passing years but for some reason he is with her today. She sees him as clearly as if he were standing beside her, coaxing a Mandrake root out of its pot, his short fingers gentling the plant so skilfully as he lifts it that both the Mandrake and Pomona fall silent.
The hands of a Healer. He hadn't chosen that path, of course; few did. Alice had wanted to be an Auror, and Frank – Frank had wanted only Alice, so he had hitched his wagon to her star until they had both come tumbling down together. Pomona's never visited them in St. Mungo's and she doesn't read the papers. Her memory of the Longbottoms is still bright: her Frank is happy, her Alice is vividly alive. There's little of their energy in Neville's soft, likeable face, but still -
If you could see him today, she thinks, you'd be proud of your son.
And then Pomona shivers, because there was another boy and he didn't become a Healer, either
'Gently.' She drops into a squat beside Severus Snape and takes the trembling seedling from his hand. 'Like this. Look.' Her fingers delve into the loam, loosening the soil and heaping it up. 'It's good earth. Feel it run between your fingers. See?'
He scowls at his pot. 'It'll grow anyway.'
Pomona nods. 'It will. But it will grow better if you look after it, and healthy plants make better potions. Not everything is as hardy as this one.' She dribbles water into the hole and tamps down the earth. 'Now give it a good soaking and try another one. Show me when you're done.'
She glances back as she walks away. He's doing it perfectly.
The cracking of frosty twigs is Pomona's signal. By the time the Headmistress (because Pomona still thinks of her that way) walks in, the kettle is whistling a cheery greeting. Minerva stamps her feet and shakes the snowflakes from her hat and they begin the inspection together.
Even the greenhouses are feeling the cold, the frail magic that warms them more fragile every day. Pomona wonders if she will outlast her job. The idea terrifies her. She watches as Minerva blows on her hands to warm them and her breath curls up and away like smoke from dragon fire.
Something has happened to Severus over the summer, because the boy who returns in September is not the boy who left in June. No one has washed his robes during the long vacation: three days into the new term they look as worn and tired as the child himself. Pomona looks at his red eyes and wonders if he has been crying.
Skilfully but without passion he disentangles a Venomous Pentapod. His long fingers flicker between the lobes until they are sticky and purple with sap. Afterwards she singles him out for private praise and suggests he train as a Healer.
'I have other plans'. He doesn't look at her and she knows she has lost him.
Sometimes when they walk they talk about the children. Less often now, because Gryffindor is getting the worst of it and Pomona feels guilty. For some reason her Hufflepuffs are escaping lightly. She is grateful for that and guilty too.
Sometimes when they walk they talk about the past. Less often now. Too many stories end in darkness. Too many children cut down, who never had a chance to grow.
They never talk about the future.
By the time they come to greenhouse two, the mugs of tea are cold in their hands. The two women halt beside the locked door, Pomona draws back the tarpaulin and they peer inside.
From the outside the murtlap farm looks like any other greenhouse. But inside –
A Scottish coastline stretches away into the distance, rocks and dunes and golden sand. The steel grey of the water is reflected in the sky and a fierce wind whips the knife-edged grasses to and fro.
There is a scrabbling sound from somewhere near the door and both women look down. A murtlap scuttles away, the tentacles on its back offering perfect cover among the sea grass. Further down in the greenhouse another murtlap is visible, turning over stones as it hunts for crabs. There are hundreds more out of sight, Pomona knows, sleeping in burrows, hunting in rock pools, until they are needed.
'It's all right.' Pomona lets the tarpaulin fall back into place and checks the charms that frost the greenhouse glass. Beside her Minerva sags.
'Thank goodness. I'm just a wee bit tired today.'
'It's all right,' Pomona says again. She puts a hand on Minerva's arm and feels the Headmistress lean into it.
Hagrid has harvested the murtlaps from their coastal homes, bringing them to her night after night in burlap sacks. Flitwick's charms have protected the greenhouse from unwanted attention. Pomona has strengthened the magics in the living wooden walls. But it is on Minerva's Transfigurations that the murtlap farm depends and Pomona is not sure how much longer the Headmistress can carry on.
'I wish Albus were here.'
The whisper is so faint that Pomona almost misses it. 'I know,' she says quietly. 'I know.' She puts her arm around Minerva and draws her close, and they stand there together, two old women in the depths of winter praying for spring.
Inside the murtlap farm, the waves beat ceaselessly against the shore.