Fifth Year

The Plant Plague

It was October the 28th, three days before Halloween. I had just finished a double Herbology period in which Professor Longbottom looked distraught while we wrestled Fanged Geraniums. I lingered behind, pretending to fix a pot that the Fanged Geranium I had been working with had smashed. After fixing the cup with a simple Reparo once my comrades were trickling out, I approached him.

“Professor?” I ventured cautiously, nearly tiptoeing up to the table on which he was halfheartedly tying up a Fanged Geranium. “Er- Professor Longbottom?”

He jumped, and all at once the too-feisty Fanged Geranium shed the twine that Professor Longbottom had been attempting to tie it up with and lunged forward, nipping my arm. I jerked back, but the plant hadn’t done more than add another small cut to the ones up and down my arms (thank you, Fanged Geraniums).

“Aly!” Professor Longbottom said in a surprised tone. He was the only teacher to call students by their first names, and that along with his kindly nature made him the school confidant. Even though he was head of Gryffindor House, students from all of the Houses flocked to spill their problems onto his stooped shoulders and receive excellent advice. He just made everyone feel very comfortable, as opposed to sly, untrustworthy Professor Descoteaux; nervous Professor Gedding; and any of the other teachers (although ever-cheerful Professor Brocklehurst was a close second). “I didn’t see you there. Can I help you with something?”

“Is something wrong, Professor?” I queried.

“My Mandrakes are sick,” he explained quickly as he turned back to the Fanged Geranium and wrestled its mouth shut. “It’s nothing that you have to worry about, Aly. Thank you for your concern, though.”

“Sick?” I echoed. “What kind of sick?”

“They don’t screech and wail like they should,” he told me, giving in to my everlasting stubbornness and nosiness. “And one seems to be sleeping every time I pull it up. My entire second-year class now thinks I’m a fool for making them wear earmuffs to handle silent Mandrakes.”

And while you’ll be safe, the plants won’t be. Unwillingly, the Sorting Hat’s words echoed through my head, and I shuddered.

“I can help, if you like,” I offered, pushing the words that rang in my ears from my mind. “I’ll look it up in the library- quiet and comatose Mandrakes? I’ll get on it as soon as I can.”

“You’re a godsend, Aly,” he said gratefully. “I’d do it myself if I didn’t have Mandrakes to look after. Thank you.”

“I’ll even see if I can get some of my friends on it, too,” I promised.

He nodded. “Good, good. The more the better.”

“Also, you might want to use the reef knot to secure that twine,” I pointed out, gesturing to the Fanged Geranium whose mouth was successfully wrapped shut but not tied. “It’s much better than the Ashley’s bend knot, which is what you’re using.”

“An outstanding idea!” Professor Longbottom agreed, tying the two twine ends together with the reef knot. “But as much as I would like to keep you as a helper for my next class- the first-years this year are rowdy beyond belief- you have a class to get to, I presume, and you should get those scratches looked at as well.”

I looked down at my arms. “Of course. Bye, Professor Longbottom!” Then I tore out of the greenhouse and sprinted for the hospital wing, determined to acquire a salve to heal the many tiny nicks up my forearms before Charms.

That night, after I finished my foot-long Potions essay on the use of moonstones in potion-making and practiced my Vanishing Charm until I had it down pat, Lynne and I walked out to the library. On our way, just as we were passing Gryffindor Tower, we ran into Lyndsay Winters.

Lyndsay was a nice Gryffindor girl who enjoyed only two things: Herbology and Quidditch. I’d watched her Beater tryout and it was my opinion that Lyndsay was much better than either Melissa or Tommy. Still, it was Nick’s choice, and if he wanted to put together a weaker team- well, it only helped my team’s chances of winning the Quidditch Cup.

When we told Lyndsay- who had fancied a walk- what we were doing, she pushed back the wide cloth headband she was wearing (she always wore one, and today’s was red striped with gold) and grinned. “Ah’d love to help,” she exclaimed in her thick Scottish accent. “The Mandrakes, ye say? They were fine when ah checked ‘em last week… ah wonder what ‘appened.”

In the library, I spotted Brooklyn’s long, wavy mane of dark brown hair hunched over a book, half-hidden behind a bookshelf. When we snuck over to sit next to her after obtaining a large stack of Herbology books, I saw that Leja was working with her too. The more the better.

There were exclaimations of surprise as Brooklyn leapt up and hugged Lynne, and Leja grinned and waved to Lyndsay. Brooklyn and Lynne were talking a mile a minute, catching up on a summer-and-a-month’s worth of goings-on.

After I explained what we were here to do, Leja shrugged and said, “I’ll help. I’m tired of Potions, and moonstones are so boring anyway, especially when Professor Bleh-ton teaches about them. I wish we had Professor Fourier back.”

After I reprimanded her for calling Professor Burton “Professor Bleh-ton”, I talked to Brooklyn, who consented to helping as well. We dropped the stacks of books we’d found in the Herbology section on the table and started looking through them. I myself speed-read through One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi, by Phyllida Spore; Goshawk’s Guide to Herbology by Miranda Goshawk; and Plants with Minds of Their Own by Samantha MacGillivray before Brooklyn triumphantly held up History of Herbology by Henry MacHaffie and read in a proud voice:

“The Plant Plague. Plants who contract this illness suffer sluggishness, lethargy, and unwillingness to do things that they would normally do. Plants will also eventually slip into a sleeplike coma. The Plant Plague has been known to spread to magical creatures, but not to any organisms that have never come in contact with magic, inanimate objects, or humans of any kind. No cure has ever been discovered. The Plant Plague is believed to be a dead disease, as the last outbreak occurred in Scotland in 1491- see Chapter Nineteen: Outbreaks.”

“Sounds like ye’ve found it,” Lyndsay praised her. “Should ah tell Professor Longbottom, Aly, or will ye do it?”

“I just had Herbology today with the Slytherins,” I told her, gesturing to Leja and Brooklyn. “So… that means that you and the Hufflepuffs have it when?”

“Tomorrow,” Lyndsay confirmed.

“You can tell him, then,” I decided.

She applauded a little. “Ah’ll do that!”

And with that, we disbanded to get back to our common rooms before the fifth-years’ nine-o’-clock curfew. Against my will, as I trudged back to Ravenclaw Tower with Lynne, the lines from the Sorting Hat’s song kept echoing in my head.

Hogwarts will stand, as strong as a fortress,

While a danger attacks everything that can eat,

And while you’ll be safe, the plants won’t be-

So with that in mind, bon appétit.

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