Warnings: Nothing really, tiny bit of angst in Chapter 4
Featured Characters/Pairings: Neville/Hannah, Ron/Hermione, Harry/Ginny, basically canon couples!
Chapter Word Count: 3,992
Summary: Neville looks back over certain days in his career teaching at Hogwarts
Author's Note: This is a birthday fic for realmer06 and yes, it is about 4 months late! She asked for Neville's interaction with the 'next gen' kids and this happened. Honestly there was such a well set out plan in my head and then my muse went off at a slight tangent and stuff happened. As it turns out I'm quite pleased with the way she went so I won't complain too loudly! I'll be updating this quickly both here and on ff.net, I just need star54kar to do once more what she's been doing throughout this for the last bit when I get it to her. Thank you, my lovely for the numerous read throughs you've done for this fic :) Cassie, I hope you like your present and, once more, apologies for the lateness of it.
How it all Began
He had spent the two years after the battle rebuilding and helping and needing to feel needed and while he had revelled in the purpose of everything he had been doing, when, on his twentieth birthday, he had his contract to – officially – join the Aurors and all was needed was his signature, he found he couldn't do it.
Six times he had found himself staring at the contract, quill in hand and poised above the dotted line at the bottom of the parchment and six times he had blotted his quill and placed it back on the table.
After the sixth time of not signing the contract he huffed, threw the quill down on the table and stomped outside to garden. He had been living with his Grandmother since the war ended but since everything that went on during his seventh year, and on that fateful night, he no longer lived there with a feeling that he constantly had to prove himself. He had grown up in ways he shouldn't have had to and he had done things he never thought himself capable of, but because of all that, he had finally found himself feeling comfortable with his abilities and courage and his Grandmother did, too.
The garden was his sanctuary. A lot of his healing from the horrors he had endured and witnessed had been sorted, organised and dealt with inside his head whilst working through the rows of vegetables, beds of flowers and patches of magical plants which they could use, sell or give away to friends.
He landed heavily on the dry grass and picked up his trowel. For a few minutes all he did was dig aggressively into an unoccupied piece of soil and try and work out exactly what the source of his hesitation was. As he realised he had been doing nothing but disturbing his beautifully turned piece of earth in front of him an owl came into view and landed next to him. Neville frowned, not initially recognising the owl, but as he untied the scroll from the owl's leg he noticed a tiny 'H' embossed into the strap and realised his letter had come from Hogwarts. He had an inkling about who was writing to him and when he saw the Hufflepuff crest at the top of the paper he smiled.
Many thanks for the Valerian Sprigs, I have still yet to work out what the cause of the acidic soil in Greenhouse Two is, possibly an errant spell from a first year but until I work it out I may call upon your stocks some more, and no, Neville I won't pay any less than what we pay our other occasional suppliers for speciality plants and roots. The payment for the Sprigs was authorised yesterday so the gold will be in your Gringotts Vault today.
I hear from a very proud Professor McGonagall that you have been asked to officially join the Aurors along with Potter and Weasley and I am also very proud of you, however, I admit I am not looking forward to the time when your work stops you from being able to visit the Hogwarts Greenhouses to give this old witch a hand. I am being selfish, I know, and I know that with you becoming an Auror our community (and at least one part of the Ministry of Magic) is in safer hands.
As always, you are welcome at Hogwarts at any time, especially in the greenhouses. I shall be in touch soon when my stocks of Valerian Sprigs run low again.
Neville smiled as he always did after reading a letter from Pomona Sprout, but he had panicked when, yet again, he realised his time in Hogwarts' Greenhouses would be limited when he started work.
He rolled his eyes at himself, he had known all along what his hesitation had been about, but he didn't like that he had doubts about doing something he had invested two years of his time into.
And he didn't want to think about what his Gran would think should he not join the Aurors. Then again, he knew she had noticed him hesitate and not sign his contract once and she hadn't said anything, just smiled when he looked her way. Maybe her heart wasn't set on her Grandson being an Auror after all.
He thought for a second and something in his brain clicked into place. Before his nerve left him, he turned on the spot and Apparated out of his garden and to the well trodden path leading out of Hogsmeade and up to the school.
With every step he doubted his decision, thought it was cheeky, inappropriate, but then he remembered Pomona's letter and knew that she was hinting at something. He didn't know what, but he intended to find out. Halfway up the track he sent his Patronus ahead and hoped that Hagrid wasn't in the middle of anything important and he was interrupting him with his plea to let him into the grounds.
As he reached the gates he couldn't help but grin at Hagrid walking to greet him.
'Neville! Good ter see yer!'
'Hi Hagrid,' he replied with a smile. 'How are you?'
'Ar, can' complain, can' complain. Yerself?' Heard it's only a matter o' time before yer join Harry and Ron in the Aurors.' Neville let his smile slip for a second, thankfully Hagrid was too busy unlocking the gates to notice. 'Ye should 'ear Professor McGonagall, she couldn't be more proud o' the three o' yer, and Seamus an' Dean o' course!'
Neville's heart sank as he added another name to the list of people who he would disappoint should he not sign the contract waiting for him at home. His thoughts had preoccupied him for longer than he had planned because Hagrid was looking at him, obviously waiting for a response.
'Err… yeah, good.'
He knew his response had been anything but adequate. He stepped through the open gates.
'Well, I know Professor Sprout wasn't quite so happy, she'll miss yer sommet rotten once yer full time at the Ministry.'
Neville smiled. 'Yeah, I'll miss her, too. And this place. I've got used to visiting so often.'
Hagrid beamed and clapped him on the shoulder. 'Ye'll always be welcome 'ere Neville, whatever y'end up doin'.'
Neville looked up at Hagrid, wondering whether he had guessed what Neville's thoughts had been or whether Hagrid was just being his usual calm, reassuring self.
'Thanks, Hagrid. I'll see you later.'
'Aye, see yer later, Neville.'
Neville knew his ultimate destination was the greenhouses but a trip to Hogwarts – no matter the time between visits – was never complete without a trip to the memorial garden.
When he reached the long wall of names he knew and names he didn't he took a minute to say thank you for their sacrifice. After a minute he opened his eyes and started to walk towards the greenhouses. With a tricky wave of his wand and a moments' concentration he was inside. Professor Sprout had told him how to unlock the greenhouses a long time ago knowing they were safe in his hands. He walked through to the far end and immediately sought the Venomous Tenacular he was trying to nurse back to health from a mystery illness. Not knowing what had caused the leaves to turn blue and for the plant to lose any disposition to attack anyone or anything, Neville had no idea where to start. He could only find three documented cases of Venomous Tentacular leaves turning blue and none of the causes were consistent and none of them could possibly have happened in a school environment. So he had tried to cure it with a specialist healing plant food, a few tried and tested spells and a little bit of TLC.
'All right, Toothy? Any less blue today?' The plant raised its head as it sensed someone near it. Neville looked over its leaves and saw they were a slightly greener shade of blue. He nodded and grinned. 'Looks like you are! Excellent!'
He gently palmed one of the smaller leaves and the plant tried to resist. Neville leaned closer to the leaf to get a better look. Before he could react the plant had locked its jaws around Neville's thumb. Concerned only for a second – the plant's 'teeth' had fallen out before the rest of the leaves had turned blue – Neville laughed, surely the fact that the plant was starting to defend itself from possible attackers was only a good thing?
'I would have told you in my letter but I wanted you to see for yourself.'
Neville turned around at Professor Sprout's voice and grinned. 'Was it overnight that there was a change?'
'When I did my rounds at nine I thought the leaves were slightly lighter, but with it being dark I wanted to see what it was like in the day time and my thoughts were confirmed when I came down after breakfast this morning.'
'I just hope that it carries on, considering we had no idea what we were dealing with I honestly thought he was a gonner!'
Professor Sprout walked the length of the greenhouse and poked the soil the plant was sitting in.
'Might give it another water, just in case.'
Neville nodded. 'Probably best.'
Sprout picked up a small watering can and pointed her wand at it. A couple of second later she was lightly sprinkling the soil with water and the plant momentarily shuddered.
'Is the Tentacula the only reason you're here?' she asked. Neville knew that the professor thought there was another reason.
'Not the only reason, no.'
'Are you going to make an old witch guess or are you going to tell me?'
Neville sighed but managed a smile. 'Honestly, I don't know if what I thought I thought ten minutes ago is true or whether I was just looking for an easy way out of a situation I'm not too sure about.'
Sprout nodded and tested the soil again with her fingertips. She carried on sprinkling.
'You're never normally the one to take the easy way out of something, Neville.'
'Well, if I'm honest, if what I thought is true comes to be then it won't be easy in the short term.'
'But in the long term?'
Neville knew it was now or never, that if he kept talking he might talk himself out of asking an important question.
'Professor, in your letter, were you hinting that you needed a hand around here and that I would be welcome to some sort of assistant's job should I be cheeky enough to come up here and ask you?'
Professor Sprout poked the soil once more, nodded and set the can down on the work bench. She turned and looked at Neville and a second later grinned at him.
'Absolutely! But none of this assistant's nonsense! If you come to work here I'll be training you up to be my replacement. Professor Dumbledore's portrait agrees with me that with all the knowledge you have now and if you work hard then you could be ready to take over in three years. However by the end of the year I'd want you taking first year classes at least twice a week. I would have discussed this with Professor McGonagall, but I know she's hoping to have all five of the Gryffindor boys from your year join the Aurors, so I had a feeling she wasn't going to be too helpful once she knew I had another intention for you, should you wish it.'
Neville groped around him for the chair that he was positive was there. Professor Sprout seemed to notice and smiled kindly while she waved her wand and summoned the chair towards her. It hit the back of Neville's knees and he sat down heavily.
'I… Me? Teaching? But I… I'm not… I've never…'
'Of course you've never thought about it because it's never been an option before! Neville I… forgive me if what I'm saying is presumptuous and wrong but… I've never seen you miserable when you're in the greenhouses or talking about Herbology, but if I've ever asked about working for the Ministry you've answered briefly and then brought the conversation back to the plants. I just don't see you working for the Ministry for the rest of your life.'
Neville swallowed hard. 'It's all I've known since I left school. It's all I've done since the war ended. It's what's… expected, isn't it?'
Professor Sprout chuckled and conjured a chair out of thin air.
'Oh, Neville, for that ghastly year I watched you and your friends fight and fight and fight. No one expected it of you but we were so proud of you for fighting. We couldn't show it without putting the school or the students at risk but we had never been so proud. But if there's one thing that you fought for, that we fought for, that Harry died for, it was for freedom and the choice to do what we want with our lives. If you want to be an Auror, go and be an Auror, but if you think that you want to make a career doing something you love and that I know you'd be excellent at, then maybe taking a chance in this old greenhouse is an idea.'
Neville couldn't help but smile. 'But… Professor McGonagall might not want me teaching here.'
'Oh, Neville she would adore having you here.'
'But you said-.'
'I said that she would be disappointed but after she'd realised this is what you wanted to do she'd love you being part of the teaching staff.'
Neville took a deep breath. 'Teaching staff… That's insane!'
Professor Sprout stood and waved her wand. The chair disappeared and she started walking up and down the rows of Lavender shoots.
'Neville, I think at the end of your sixth year the thought of you becoming an Auror would have seen insane but for the past few years you've been working hard to reach that status. I think you've proved that you are capable of anything you put your mind to.'
Neville took a deep breath. 'And do you… you believe I can do it, do you?'
Professor Sprout pulled a weed from the soil in front of her. 'I wouldn't have asked you had I thought otherwise. The offer is there should you wish to take it Neville, but even if you decide the Ministry is the place for you, you are always welcome in these greenhouses.'
Neville knew he was being dismissed to make his decision. He stood on shaky legs and pushed the chair to its previous resting place.
'I'll… err… I'll let you know.'
'Take your time, this is a decision you don't want to rush.'
Neville smiled and nodded his head. He made his way to the door and turned around. 'Thank you, Professor. This offer… I'm flattered… really. Thank you.'
'You're welcome, Neville.'
Neville turned and strode up towards the castle. He tried not to think too hard about his decision, in the hopes that he would be able to compare the two offers objectively and with a clear head. But as he walked up the path towards the newly – completely – restored castle, he couldn't help but grin. His head tried to tell his heart that he should at least come up with a pros and cons list for the two options but after a couple of minutes of not even thinking about becoming an Auror anymore, his head gave up.
Neville carried on walking, and even though he didn't actually have a final destination in mind, three minutes later he found himself staring at the door to Professor McGonagall's study. His smile slipped as he realised the conversation he was about to have. And for a second he thought about turning right back around and leaving that particular talk to another day.
He chastised himself for his momentary cowardice and raised his hand to knock on the door. As he waited he half prayed that she was somewhere else in the castle, but all too soon he heard familiar footsteps behind the door and the slow grate of the handle turning.
'Neville! What a pleasant surprise!'
'Good morning, Professor, I'm not interrupting you, am I?'
Again, he half hoped that she was extremely busy and didn't have the time to talk to him.
'Not at all! I know I have paperwork to sort before the final few Hogwarts Letters go out to the July birthdays but it being the holidays I do have plenty of time on my hands. What can I do for you?'
'Oh, um, well I just wanted to talk to you about something.'
A small frown of concern crossed her face and she opened the door wider and beckoned him inside. She gestured that he sit and as he did he couldn't help but feel like he was in trouble and was about to get a telling off, even though the Professor wasn't, as yet, angry with him.
'Nothing's wrong is it, Neville?'
Neville smiled. 'Nothing at all, quite the opposite actually. Hagrid said you'd heard that we'd got our Auror contracts through.'
He watched as Professor McGonagall physically swelled with pride. His heart sank a little. 'Kingsley owled me himself!' Neville felt like banging his head on the desk but he kept his becoming-more-fake-by-the-second smile firmly stuck on his face.
'Other people got their contracts, too, Terry and Ernie and Parvati…'
'And I am proud of each and every one of them, but all the Gryffindor boys from your year are becoming Aurors, that's a very big deal!'
Against his will, Neville sighed deeply. Instantly Professor McGonagall Frowned.
'Is there something wrong, Neville?'
He managed to meet her gaze for a second before staring resolutely at the desk between them.
'Um… well… it's just…'
He tried to think of some way of lessening the blow but he couldn't find the words.
'Pomona has offered you the chance to shadow her and eventually replace her and you can think of nothing you would rather do than teach the students of Hogwarts Herbology.'
Neville's jaw dropped. Had he been that obvious? Or had Professor Sprout's behaviour around her search for a replacement been watched thoroughly.'
'Well… yes, that's exactly it.'
He couldn't meet her gaze, terrified of the disappointment he would no doubt see on her face.
'Neville,' he screwed his eyes up, waiting for some unpleasant words he wouldn't know how to deal with, 'I don't think you'll ever know how proud I am of you.' He couldn't help but look up and stare at her. 'I'm sorry it's taken me this long to tell you to your face, I've said it over and over again about the whole lot of you who fought and were strong and defied evil and are making a world a better place by helping rebuild it, but I've never said it to you personally, and for that I'm sorry. So, I'll say it again, I'm so very proud of you, Neville. You, above others have come the furthest and have grown the most.'
Neville squirmed on his seat and only managed another glance at the Professor before looking somewhere else. 'So, you're not disappointed that I'm having second thoughts about joining the Aurors?'
McGonagall smiled kindly and pulled the lid off her box of Ginger Newts, she held out the tin and Neville took one.
'It is enough that you are wanted by Kingsley and the Ministry because you have the skills, the temperament and the courage to keep our world safe-.'
'But… but I'm letting people down if I leave all that behind and come to work here! I'm letting Kingsley down, my Grandmother, Harry, Ron, everyone who encouraged me during training, and I'm letting you down, too! I just… don't want to disappoint anyone.'
He took a large bite of his Ginger Newt to give himself something to do.
'And what about you, Neville?' He noticed her more stern tone had made an appearance. 'What about the dreams that you had before the war? What about us sitting in these very seats and me telling you to pursue Herbology with vigour because not only were you good at it but you enjoyed it and you were never happier than when you were in the Greenhouses?'
Neville shuffled again. 'Yeah, but, the war-.'
'Is over.' She seemed to wilt as if remembering some of the horrors she had had to witness during that fateful year. 'I have seen two wars come and go, personally I think that is quite enough for one person in a lifetime, and while war changes people and the way they think, when all's said and done and the battle is fought, it shouldn't mean that their previous dreams are no longer valid.'
Neville sighed and nodded.
'Just because you had to be a warrior for a year, and you had to help us rebuild and get us back on our feet-' Neville went to protest that his role wasn't that important but was silenced by a Professor McGonagall raising her hand. He instantly quieted. '-doesn’t mean that now we are back on our feet, that you have helped us win our smaller battles and in turn the war, that your dream to devote your life to Herbology is any less relevant than it was all those years ago.'
Neville found a smile pulling at his lips. 'It would be so strange coming back here as staff!'
Professor McGonagall smiled. 'You will be welcomed with open arms and I have no doubt, that after Professor Sprout has finished with you, you will be more than a worthy replacement for her.'
Suddenly a thought occurred to Neville. 'But what about Hufflepuff house? Who will be their head?'
'Oh, don't you worry about that, Neville, Hufflepuffs make extraordinary teachers – their patience and hard working nature giving them something of an edge – as such we have a choice of candidates who will be an excellent Head of House. That is another dilemma for another day.'
Neville smiled and finished off his biscuit.
'Thank you, Professor, for… well… not behaving like my Grandmother is sure to when I tell her the choice I've made.'
'I think you do Augusta a disservice, she will be happy as long as you are.' Neville smiled, was about to disagree with the Professor, but then remembered how his Grandmother had smiled kindly the times she had caught him hesitating while signing his contract. Maybe McGonagall was right. 'I shall give you a few days to make your final decision and then I shall have the official job offer and contract sent to you with Athena.'
Neville smiled as Professor McGonagall's owl opened its eyes on hearing her name. The owl seemed to take in the situation and Neville could have sworn she nodded before closing her eyes again and settling back down to sleep. 'If you could get that back to us as soon as possible then we will sort out all the necessary paperwork.'
Neville nodded and his stomach squirmed in excitement and with nervousness.
'I'll be quick, don't worry about that.'
'Excellent, well, Longbo-,' she smiled and looked apologetically at Neville, ' Neville, you have some people to talk to and I have three more First Year Muggle-Born Liaison Appointments to organise with the Ministry, so I shall bid you good day and hope to hear from you soon.'
Neville grinned as he stood up. 'Thank you, Professor. For everything.'
He left the office and as he closed the heavy door behind him he breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Then he realised the hardest part was what was to come next.
And then he had to become a teacher.