The Sugar Quill
Author: Mintha  Story: Clockwork Valentine  Chapter: Default
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Disclaimer: None of these characters are mine

Disclaimer: None of these characters are mine.

 

 

Clockwork Valentine

 

Neville hated holidays.

 

Valentine’s Day was about the worst, although Christmas ranked a close second. And there seemed to be at least one of the stupid things every month, sometimes more. Almost as hard as the actual day itself were the days prior, when everyone seemed to be busy with plans that never included him - plans with friends, with dates, with families. Parties to talk about, trips to take, who was going where with whom.

 

Neville always knew where he was going.

 

Not that he begrudged his parents the visits, by any means, but sometimes he thought it might be nice to go on a random Thursday, instead of having to show up on every holiday like clockwork, as if these days weren’t hard enough to start with.

 

Then again, a person might as well get both events over with at the same time. That at least left his other days free to aspire to something closer to normal.

 

He tried not to envy his schoolmates; it was neither comfortable nor productive. And deep in his heart, he didn’t think it was really fitting of a Gryffindor. So he tried to be happy for them, tried not to watch too closely or too covetously when the morning owls flew in and dropped invitations, cards, and packages left and right.

 

The trip to Hogsmeade on Valentine’s Day morning did little to improve his mood. The streets were crowded with people clustered in pairs or groups. You couldn’t even buy yourself a decent bit of chocolate in the shops because it was all packaged in velvet heart-shaped boxes that read poetry to you when you took the lid off, and the prices were three times higher than usual, and everything was stuffed with cherries.

 

He found himself wandering the flower shop, looking for something suitable to take along on his visit to St. Mungo’s that afternoon. Nothing with thorns, of course. Nothing blood red. Nothing alarmingly bright or cloyingly fragrant. Nothing toxic.

 

He couldn’t find anything he liked this year, and the few things he didn’t completely hate were sprayed with glitter. He left in disgust, and headed back to where he always seemed to end up these days. He was expecting the main conservatory to be deserted, but found Professor Sprout there, merrily potting up boxes of pink dragonsnaps, and humming to herself. He offered to help at once, it was always better to keep busy on days like this. Seeing she was nearly out of potting soil, he carried a new bag over to the table, and opened it while she set out more pots.

 

He’d been grousing to her for several minutes about the tacky offerings of the Hogsmeade florist, when finally she just laughed at him and shook her head. “Go get her something out of Greenhouse 5,” she said, as if this should have been obvious from the beginning.

 

He looked up in surprise. It had never crossed his mind... this wild idea of anyone ever actually picking anything from Greenhouse 5, which contained Professor Sprout’s personal gardens and was usually so full of blooms that the outside of the translucent walls looked like stained glass.

 

She must have read the look on his face. “That’s what they’re there for,” she said cheerfully. “Come along, I’ll give you a hand.” She picked up her favorite cutting shears and put them in her apron pocket.  “You know, you could try planting some flowers in with your herbs this year, so you’ll have exactly what you want for next time.” she advised. “It’s also a good way to woo the girls,” she added, with jovial good humor.

 

Face flushing at that last comment, he followed her down the gravel walk between buildings while she rattled on about what his mother might like, from what she could remember of ‘dear little Alice’.

 

Neville knew that some of his professors had known his parents in their schooldays, but he’d never felt comfortable bringing it up, and perhaps they hadn’t either. He decided this was as good a chance as was likely to come by, and told himself sternly to take it.  “My mother,” he ventured. “She was... she was good at Herbology, too?”

 

“Oh, she had a fair enough hand, nothing remarkable. Must’ve skipped a generation, though, because her mother, now, there was a woman with a gift. She was a classmate of mine, but we lost touch after graduation. I do know she hybridized all sorts of useful things before she died, became an herbalist healer out in some remote area of the Dragonswolds, I believe. Or maybe it was the Heathertons.”

 

Neville was stunned. “I didn’t know that.”

 

“Well, ask Augusta about it. Goodness, I’m surprised she never told you,” Professor Sprout’s blithe tone had grown more serious.

 

Neville wasn’t surprised at all, seeing how most of Gran’s anecdotes tended to feature Aurors, but he said nothing. While he was processing this revelation about his maternal grandmother, Professor Sprout handed him a basket and began to go to work with the shears. After ten minutes she had him so laden down with different kinds of blooms and curly fern that he finally had to beg her to stop.

 

She waved her short green wand at the stems. “There,” she said with satisfaction. “That should keep them fresh until you get where you’re going and can put them in some water.”

 

He thanked her profusely, as grateful for the snippet of information as for the flowers.

 

He hurried back toward the castle, knowing Professor McGonagall would be expecting him in her office soon to take the Floo to St. Mungo’s. As he entered the courtyard, he spotted Luna Lovegood perched on the edge of the fountain. She had picked a sunny spot to sit in, the way that cats did, her Ravenclaw scarf wrapped around her several times against the chill.  Her feet were crossed at the ankles, and she was engrossed in a large book on her lap. He supposed he wasn’t the only one for whom Valentine’s Day was not a whirlwind of hearts and flowers.

 

Although, he thought, suddenly inspired, he did have plenty of flowers at the moment thanks to someone who had just been kind to him, it couldn’t hurt to share some with another St. Valentine’s Day refugee.

 

He looked down into the basket, considering the one white Butterfly Orchid slowly opening and closing its petals as it clung to the wicker side. He reached in, let the tendrils wrap around his finger and lifted it out of the basket.

 

“Hi Luna,” he greeted her, as he walked over to the fountain side.

 

“Well, hello, Neville,” she replied pleasantly, her bright blue gaze traveling up from her book to his face.

 

Neville didn’t know exactly what to say. He didn’t want to sound like he felt sorry for her, or for himself, because he didn’t, or to make it sound like there was something going on today that they were missing out on, because they weren’t ... it was just a pretty day, and a pretty flower, and a pretty girl, and he thought the three of them belonged together.

 

Still tongue-tied, he simply set the orchid on the open pages of her book, noticing as he did so that it was written in Greek.

 

“What’s this for?” she asked, in genuine puzzlement.

 

“It’s Thursday,” he explained.

 

“Oh,” she smiled in sudden understanding, pleased.  “So it is. I’d forgotten.”

 

 

 

 

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