Chapter 1 : Prologue
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Neville Longbottom was having a very interesting day.
Not only had three different species of plants engulfed four different students in flame in two different periods (these plants hadn't been recorded to spew flames before), and not only had his first period Slytherin-Gryffindor class been graced by the visitation of the renowned naturalist and long-time friend of his, Luna Scamander—not only had she given the class an impromptu lecture on the importance of reinforced boots in the tundra—but today, of all days, Hugo Weasley had approached him with an especially strange request.
It might have been a series of innocent questions, but then again, Neville thought, Hugo had inherited his father's tact (which was needy, to say the least) and that wide-eyed, wink-peppered stare that had been drilled into his own eyes had not seemed untinged with hints and insinuations. As much hinting and insinuation as a slightly dim fifth year boy could pull off, anyways.
He'd waited until after class, placing down the pink fluffy earmuffs with less-than-dexterousness onto the dirty work table at the front of the classroom (and Neville had smiled, remembering the days when he himself had sported that same headdress). He had shifted, antsy, from foot to foot with his hands folded neatly behind his back. Neville had let out a long sigh, expecting another ill-planned bribe to raise the boy's herbology grade to at least a P for the fall term (but Neville wasn't as powerless to licorice wands as some might lead one to believe). He raised his head slowly to Hugo's restless form, regarding him privately from the well-trained corner of one eye.
He was a solid combination of the looks of his mother and the mannerisms of his father. With slightly wild, cropped, wavy brown hair and bright green eyes, Hugo looked the part of the lanky Weasley-Granger. His nose was nearly as long as Ron's was, and his appendages were as long and skinny as his father's as well. He had that quite innocent and almost nitwitted look that had often plastered the face of Ron in situations that forced it to arise—which, in Neville's humble opinion, seemed to occur more often in the life of Hugo Weasley than any other student he'd ever met. Not that he was one to compare.
And now he was standing, slumped slightly, his hands twined behind his back. Neville could imagine one foot tapping even as he heard the faint pat pat pat of loafer on dirt. Hugo's eyes were pointed towards the greenhouse roof, his nostrils slightly flared in a way that screamed of his inattentive attitude towards his own appearance, and his mouth gaping open a little bit; just wide enough, Neville thought, for some slobber to slip out.
"Yes, Hugo?" he finally asked, restraining himself even as he thought of sighing again.
"Well, Professor Neville—I mean, Professor Longbottom—the thing is, I was wondering if you knew anything about a plant named Quidropopot and where it's found?"
There was really only one way that Hugo could have ever heard of this plant that Neville could think of. Before he could stop them his eyes squinted in suspicion, and his hand, seemingly automatically, reached up to scratch the growing stubble on his chin.
He determined the fact from glancing at the unaveragely tall boy's facial expression that it was most likely he'd never read the eight-hundred page treatise on the treatment of exotic diseases in which Quidropopot was mentioned, and had probably never even heard of its title—so he reserved his breath and refrained from questioning the boy's background knowledge.
"Yes, I am familiar with Quidropopot. It's most commonly found in Antarctic regions under ice that can be anywhere from metres to kilometres thick." Neville rubbed his chin again, frowning.
"Oh," Hugo said, and looked up at Neville expectantly. After a few moments Neville widened his eyes to signal once again that no, Hugo, he couldn't read minds. Use your words.
"Oh, yeah. Er—is it possibly found anywhere else? Liiiiike…in the Forbidden Forest?"
Neville's frown deepened and he felt once again that oft-felt fatherly concern for the boy. It was astounding that with the brains of Hermione somewhere deep down in his system he could manage to pull faces like the ones that he regularly wore.
"Hugo—ah, Hugo. I can't really say." Neville grimaced, hating to think that his honest answer would lead the boy on a wild-goose-chase through a forbidden section of the school grounds. He leaned forward, regretting his decision even as he spoke the words: "But…just between you and me, in the treatise I read, it did mention that there have been reports of Quidropopot growing in other places. I have my own theories confirming the reports."
Hugo nodded solemnly, leaning forward as well. "Can you tell me some of its magical properties?"
"Well, it's never really been found, at least recently, in its ripened form, has it?" Neville's face dropped as he regarded Hugo's blank stare. "The answer...is no. It's not been found fully formed. People don't really understand this—well, that only makes sense as it's a conjecture of my own, unpublished at that—it's my belief that it takes a Quidropopot years and years to mature. From the earliest findings, which date back to the first century A.D., Egyptian gods used to extract some sort of powerful gem from the center of its pod and wear them in the middle of their headdresses." Neville looked pointedly at Hugo's chin, which was—really, now?—dripping with something wet. Hugo slurped noisily and wiped his chin with his sleeve. Neville tried to stymie his grimace, failed, and continued. "Its flesh is also magically healing and will heal most exotic sicknesses and skin rashes. It's highly prized."
"But can't you also use it as a Quaffle?" Hugo asked, and Neville began to understand more of the boy's interest in the flowers of the plant. He still wondered how Hugo understood this of the plant—and then it hit him—Rose. She might have read the book.
"Yes, you can use it as a Quaffle."
Hugo winked one more time at Neville before he thanked him kindly and trailed his feet out of the greenhouse noisily, poking at a plant which, it just so happens, grabbed onto his finger. He wrestled with it for a few moments—pausing at one amusing moment to glance sideways at Neville from under his elbow—before wresting his philange from the creature and holding it in his other hand while rushing gooberishly out of the glass door.
Neville sat at his desk in his office by the fireplace burning old papers, reminiscing on the day's procedures.
He wasn't sure why Hugo had developed such an interest in the unusual and rare plant. But he was sure that something of Hugo's glance, however much finesse the boy lacked, had been trying to tell him more than he could say (or, possibly, knew how to say) in words. He was sure there was something pleading about that blank, vacuous look. Something that said, indistinctly, of course: help me find it.
a/n: edited 26 august 2011