The Sugar Quill
Author: Dzeytoun (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Daddy's Favorite  Chapter: The View from the Greenhouse
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Title: Daddy's Favorite (01)

Most people do not understand the demands of living things. Sometimes I think that Hagrid and I are the only two members of the Hogwarts faculty who truly realize and feel the needs of living, breathing magic, as opposed to the kind of sterile manipulations of force and substance practiced in so many arcane disciplines. Thus many of my colleagues expressed surprise when I told them I had work to do in the greenhouses tonight. After all this is the evening of the Leavetaking Feast. And with that creature Umbridge gone, surely it is a time to relax.

But living things have needs that must be met. My Compass Roses are in need of rebedding, and that cannot be put off. Why, if I were to let it go, within a couple of days the poor dears would be totally unable to find North! (Or South or East or West for that matter). So I have changed my dress (although I pay very little attention to fashion anyway, and even less these days than I once did) and set to work.

I am not alone in the greenhouses. Several of my Hufflepuffs have decided to work here rather than attend the feast. It brings back too many bad memories of poor Cedric, does that particular ceremony. I don't blame them - I would not have attended myself were I not required.

"Professor Sprout?" The voice is soft and tentative, but familiar.

I look up and smile at Rebecca. She is a seventh year, and was one of Cedric's dearest friends. I think she finds her work in the greenhouses and gardens to be a kind of memorial to him. Accompanying her are her boyfriend, Richard Ruddigarp, and their friend, Christopher Arlinor. All are among my Hufflepuffs. "Becca," I greet her, "Richard, Chris, I hope you are ready for the graduation ceremony."

"Yes we are, Professor," Chris allows. He is a tall, thin handsome boy, by far the boldest of the three. "But it is very ... upsetting. In some ways...."

"Don't get us wrong Professor," Richard cuts in with his nasal tones, "we loved Cedric. But is some ways this year is even more frightening."

Yes it is. After what happened at the Ministry, there can be no doubt - not that I ever had any. I have known that You-Know-Who has returned from the moment I laid eyes on poor Cedric's body, almost exactly a year ago. Accident indeed! The Ministry is staffed by fools, and I don't give a rotten fig if many of them were Hufflepuffs!

"I know my dears," I say. I rise and remove my dirty gloves, spreading my arms to embrace them each in turn.

"Professor," Becca says softly, "Marlene is still not doing well."

I sigh. Marlene is one of our three Shining Marigolds. They are the centerpiece of the small memorial garden some of my Hufflepuffs and I put together to Cedric's memory in the back of one of the older greenhouses. Shining Marigolds are wondrous and beautiful, but notoriously hard to tend.

"I know, my dears. She needs someone to take her under their wing. With you three graduating, I don't know who in the House to turn to."

"Well," Becca says, "we were kind of thinking..." The three look at each other and share a mutual nod. "We were thinking that maybe Neville Longbottom might be able to do something with Marlene. He is so good with difficult plants!"

"That he is," I say slowly. In fact saying he is good is quite the understatement. He actually got a Mimbulus mimbletonia to to the vocalization stage in less than a year! I have never been able to do so well myself. "But he is also a Gryffindor."

"We know, Professor," Chris says softly, "but we have talked it over in the House and well ... this is supposed to be a memorial for Cedric. If Neville can help, it seems stupid not to ask just because he isn't a Hufflepuff."

"Is this the consensus of the House?" I ask.

"Of all of the House who are interested in Herbology, Professor," Becca squeaks.

I realize that the greenhouse has grown silent. All my other Hufflepuffs have paused in their tasks and are listening.

"My darlings," I say, trying to take in all of those present in the greenhouse, "I am so PROUD of you! That is a thoroughly professional attitude! And a tribute to your feelings for Cedric."

My Hufflepuffs shuffle around and look abashed. I mean every word I have just said. My pride for them is so great that I feel I shall burst. I go to each of them, one by one, for it is obvious they were all planning this, and give each a hug and a small kiss.

In truth I had been planning to ask Neville if he might see to Marlene, but I had not known how to broach the matter. The memorial was by Hufflepuffs for a Hufflepuff. But the Shining Marigold needs someone to care for her and Neville ... Neville has a great gift, the greatest I have seen in many years. That my Hufflepuffs have accepted his gift and decided to ask for his help without my prodding is something I had not dared dream.

I am really so very, very proud of each and every one of them! It takes so much maturity to admit that someone else's gift in your beloved practice is greater than your own! And to accept that in one who is not even a member of your own House....

It is a generally denied truth, but an iron truth nonetheless, that all teachers have their favorites. Neville is one of mine. I have been taken with his sweet personality and his marvelous talent with herbs and plants since his first year. It has sometimes been awkward for me, what with him being a Gryffindor and all. But now I am humbled by the generosity of my darling Hufflepuffs.

It is a strange fact of our times that most of our favorites are congregated in the rising sixth year class. Well, life is often odd that way. Still, most of the professors have taken to students in their own houses.

Snape, for instance, I reflect as I finish my rounds and return to my roses, constantly sings the praises of Draco Malfoy. I have never been impressed with that particular Slytherin - his lack of affinity for living things is so great that he cannot even tie Sparkler Vines without making a thorough mess of it. Hagrid tells me that even flobberworms don't seem to like young Malfoy - and I've never heard of a flobberworm having hard feelings toward anybody. Even Severus can handle them with ease!

Still, evidently Draco has a great talent for Potions - although why anyone would have any interest in manipulating dead substances according to dry and unimaginative rules I have no idea. Of course I am prejudiced. Most potions masters have little knowledge or appreciation for the true nature of the ingredients they acquire from me. Snape is slightly better than average in that regard - but only slightly.

Minerva McGonogall, on the other hand, has a pronounced soft spot for Hermione Granger - the Gryffindor with the head of a Ravenclaw. Why, in the girl's third year Minerva actually talked the Ministry into letting Hermione use a Time Turner to maximize her ability to attend classes. A Time Turner! I shudder to think what Minerva must have gone through to do that! Even Aurors are not allowed routine access to those devices, and with good reason.

I smile at the thought of Minerva browbeating some poor functionary in the Department of Mysteries. What we won't do for our favorites! I have always found Miss Granger to have a superior mind but an extremely pedestrian sensibility, at least with regard to herbology. An analyst she certainly is, an artist she certainly is not. But I do not begrudge Minerva, who is after all a Transfigurations teacher and thus given to favor the analytic mind, her opinions.

That thought brings up more troubling reflections, though. I bend my attention to my bedding. Unfortunately, it is a routine, if necessary, task, and does not monopolize my attention.

Albus, why can't you see you are making a fool of yourself?

We all have favorites, it is true. Somehow, though, I had innocently thought Albus Dumbledore to be above such things. Little did I know.

I used to dismiss Snape's fuming about Dumbledore's favoritism towards Harry Potter. Snape is a bitter, hard man. He dislikes Gryffindors in general, and I sense there is something in his past that makes him dislike Mr. Potter more than most. But lately...

It has been a hard year on everyone, I know. It has been harder on Harry Potter than most. I like Mr. Potter, I really do. He does not have the mind of Granger, but his instincts are better ... although not approaching those of Neville, of course. Like everyone, I have been deeply impressed, awed in fact, by his accomplishments over the years. And the fact that he was with Cedric when that dear boy died means that Potter will always have a friend and ally in me. But....

I might as well admit it.

But I cannot help but resent the fact that he makes Albus Dumbledore, the greatest wizard in the world, a man I admire and esteem, act like a lovesick puppy.

That is unfair. I know it is unfair. I have never, ever seen any sign that Harry Potter deliberately encourages Albus' ... infatuation ... nor have I in fact seen much sign he is even aware of it. But I can't help but feel just a tiny bit hard toward Mr. Potter for his effect on the great Albus Dumbledore.

I have noticed it over the last couple of years especially. It is absolutely impossible now to have a real conversation with Albus in the Great Hall. His eyes are locked on Harry Potter, following his every move. The only time Albus looks away is when Potter actually looks up. And that is not very often, given that he is a teenage boy with all of the teenage boy's self-absorption.

Albus has taken to making excuses for walking around the grounds, always staying in the shadows where the students will not see him, his eyes always following Potter. And when Potter is not around ... ye gods.

It used to be possible to have an exchange of more than five sentences with Albus about school affairs without the name "Potter" entering into it. Not any more. The man knows no other possible subject of conversation. And it's getting worse. It used to be at least "Mr. Potter this" and "Mr. Potter that." Now it's "Harry this," and "Harry that." I don't go to his office anymore if I don't have to. If I hear another oration on "Harry's" bravery, cleverness, and generally superior nature to every other breathing being I think I will have to go to Poppy Pomfrey for mental counseling. Even the portraits are commenting on it!

Worse, the students are beginning to notice - especially the Ravenclaws, who are far too clever for their own good. Two weeks ago I heard a Ravenclaw sixth year girl make the remark, after watching Albus all through dinner, that "I just hope Dumbledore doesn't spy on him in the shower." I descended on them in a points-taking wrath that would have done Severus proud.

But I know what they mean. I have no suspicions about Albus' behavior towards his favorite - if Albus is anything, he is rigidly ethical. But his behavior is beginning to be embarrassing.

Admit it, you also don't like it that Harry Potter does not notice how Dumbledore watches him.

That is true. It is yet another unfair feeling. Albus goes to great lengths to keep Potter from knowing he is being watched. But when I look at that great man staring ever more obviously at a teenage boy, the look on his face over the years growing through benign interest to concern to open pride to something that is uncomfortably close to adoration, I want to scream.

"POTTER, YOU DUNCE! WOULD YOU BOTHER TO LOOK UP EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE AND NOTICE THAT THE GREATEST WIZARD IN THE WORLD IS UTTERLY ENTHRALLED WITH YOU!"

As I said, absolutely unfair. It doesn't mean I don't feel that way, though.

And tonight, tonight was the worst. Harry Potter did not come to the Leavetaking Feast. He had very good reason, I have been quietly told, not to come. Certainly he has been through enough this year to have the privilege of skipping a boring ceremony.

But when I saw the look on Albus' face when he noticed Potter's vacant spot at the Gryffindor table I wanted to march to Gryffindor Tower and slap the boy ... what is that marvelous expression the Muggles use? ... into the the middle of next week. It is bad enough to watch Albus follow Potter with his sight, but to see his gaze locked on an empty seat with an expression in his eyes like a teenage girl who has been jilted at the Yule Ball - it was almost more than I could take.

Well, I think as I finish rebedding the Compass Roses, the summer at least is upon us. And perhaps I can get Harry Potter off my mind for a while.

It is the first time I have ever found myself in agreement with Severus Snape.

And that is yet another very unfair reason I have the tiniest of hard feelings towards Mr. Harry Potter.

 

 


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