The Meaning of Flowers

Neville Longbottom was sitting alone inside one of the greenhouses, Magical Mediterranean Water-Plants and Their Properties lying in his lap. Ever since the fake Mad-Eye Moody had lent it to him in his fourth year, Neville had been particularly fond of the book and after returning it, had send in a mail order at Flourish & Blotts to get his own copy. He had read through it no less than six times, and it never got old. He always seemed to find something new that he had overlooked the previous reading.

Neville was in the greenhouses by himself due to a free period, and Professor Sprout had always said he was welcome to let himself into the greenhouses whenever he pleased. She had a faith in him that no other teacher possessed, and she knew he would take care of any plants that needed attending to. In fact, as soon as Neville had entered Greenhouse 3 he noticed some Fanged Geraniums that needed watering. He soon quenched their thirst and then settled himself down at one of the tables to read.

He had just turned onto the page that provided a detailed description of gillyweed when the door to the greenhouse creaked open. Neville looked up, and was surprised to see fellow Gryffindor and good friend Angela Wickham hovering in the doorway. Their sixth-year Herbology lesson wasn't supposed to start for at least another two hours, and he was sure she was meant to be in another class. He was about to say something when she spoke first.

"Hi Neville, I'm not bothering you, am I?"

"Why would you be bothering me?" he replied truthfully. In fact, he could use a little company.

"Well, I know how you like to busy yourself in here. Thought you might want to be alone."

"I'm just reading."

Angela took this as her cue to come in, and she closed the door behind her before walking over to Neville's table and sitting directly across from him.

"Don't you have another class right now?" Neville asked, puzzled.

Angela pushed her glasses back up onto the bridge of her nose and shrugged. "Yeah. Divination. But it's so stuffy in that room! You'd think she'd at least put the fire out, or open the windows, especially in this weather. So I left. Said I felt ill."

"What did Professor Trelawney say?"

"Oh, you know how she rattles on. 'The Inner Eye tells me you'll feel better in no time'." She laughed quietly at the thought. "She likes me, so she didn't mind too much."

"I see. Not missing much, then?" Neville flicked straight past the pages on gillyweed - he had those pages practically memorised.

"Not really. So, what're you reading?"

Neville held the book up to show her the front cover, and Angela grinned. He placed it back down onto the table this time. His neck had been beginning to ache from looking down at his lap.

"Your favourite, I should have known."

"Yeah, well, it's so interesting!" Neville's light green eyes lit up as he said this, and Angela shared his enthusiasm almost exactly. She loved Herbology. She might not have had the aptitude that Neville did, but she was passionate and hard-working. And having Neville as her Herbology partner made the subject ten times as enjoyable.

They sat in comfortable silence for a few minutes whilst Neville read, and Angela looked around the greenhouse, observing the plants that were newly flowering and making a mental note to ask Professor Sprout for some cuttings, and then her attention turned back to her friend, who seemed very absorbed in his book. She didn't mean to stare, but all of a sudden she found her eyes wandering over Neville's face, his expression calm and content. She hadn't ever noticed before, but there were small, light freckles on his nose, and he had gorgeously long eyelashes. His dark brown hair was the same length it had been during their fourth year, with the slight curl she adored. He had grown a lot over the summer, too, unlike herself, who still stood at a tiny five feet.

She held back a sigh, and turned her attention towards the Venomous Tentacula, which was looking vicious as per usual. Angela had been crushing on Neville for months now, but she was too shy to say anything. As if he would ever like me that way, anyway, she thought to herself. Contrary to what she thought when she looked at herself in the mirror, Angela was actually very nice-looking, with her wavy dark hair, large, innocent green eyes hidden behind her glasses, and straight nose. And the bubotuber pus had definitely cleared up her acne, so she was rather pretty indeed.

The sound of Neville's soft voice brought her straight back to the present.

She shook her head. "Sorry, what did you say?"

"I said: have you finished the essay that Professor Sprout set us last week?"

Angela went momentarily blank for a second as she tried to remember what essay Neville was talking about. Then it dawned on her.

"You mean… the one on the various uses of honeysuckle, the one that's due tomorrow?!" There was a slight panicky tone to her voice.

"Yes, that one. And it's due today, actually. Don't tell me you haven't even started?" he replied, looking at her in disbelief. Although to be honest he wasn't at all surprised. Angela was the biggest procrastinator he knew, always leaving assignments to the last minute.

Angela bit her lip, which she did so when she was feeling uncomfortable or nervous, and then fumbled for her bag, which was sitting on the floor of the greenhouse. She mumbled a quick "Of course I've started!" and promptly took out parchment, quill and ink, and set them down onto the table in front of her, along with A Guide to Magical Flowering Plants in the Northern Hemisphere.

"Clearly you haven't started," Neville pointed out quietly, and Angela looked embarrassed. Her cheeks coloured, and she bit her lip again.

"Why did I leave it so late?" she said in barely a whisper. A tear escaped from underneath her lashes and she wiped it away angrily.

Neville frowned. He didn't like to see his friend upset. And nor did he want her to get zero for not handing up an assignment on time, especially in Herbology, which was easily one of her best subjects. However, it wasn't his fault she'd left it right until the last minute, but he was too kind-hearted to ever say otherwise. "I... I could help you, if you want," he began tentatively. "I mean, I won't let you copy off mine exactly, but if it'll help…"

Angela had never looked so grateful. "Neville, you're my hero! Thank you so much!"

To hide the blush that was creeping up onto his cheeks, Neville busied himself by getting a roll of parchment out of his bag, as well as a couple more books from the library. He then walked around the table and sat in the chair beside Angela, deposited the books on top of A Guide to Magical Flowering Plants in the Northern Hemisphere and handed her his completed essay.

Angela read through it quickly, taking a few notes on a spare bit of parchment. She handed it back to him and then picked up one of the books he had placed on the table, and went straight to the index, looking for Lonicera, or honeysuckle. Neville did the same thing with another, taking down notes for her on another slip of parchment. They took notes in silence, and Angela began her essay after five minutes' worth of reading. She occasionally flipped through one of the books and looked over the notes Neville had given her, but that was it. Everything they had learnt in class about honeysuckles was coming back to her.

After she had almost written four paragraphs, Neville moved his chair closer to her to see what she was writing. Angela's heart beat faster at his proximity, and she hoped he couldn't hear it; it was beating so loudly against her chest. She finished writing the last sentence of the fourth paragraph and then placed down her quill so she could rest her tired hand for a moment. Neville asked if he could read over it, and Angela nodded, not sure she would be able to speak at all, considering she could feel the heat emanating from his body. Neville took the parchment in his hands and began to read.

"Mmhmm, good start. Honeysuckle is an invasive species in the southern hemisphere… Lonicera xylosteum, or the fly honeysuckle, is a common homeopathic remedy… yes. And you've got those details there…" Neville read the fourth paragraph with great interest. "In Japan, a honeysuckle represents 'devoted affection' – does it really?"

"Hm?" Angela had been staring at her quill, hoping that her heart rate would return to normal, and barely listening to what Neville had been muttering.

"What you've written in this paragraph here," Neville said, moving the parchment so they could both read it and pointing to where she had written about what honeysuckles represented.

"What about it?" Angela said in a voice that didn't quite sound like her own.

"Nothing, just I didn't know that… well, what it represented."

"Yeah, well, you know my mum. She loves learning about all that stuff, the meaning of flowers. I remember her telling me about honeysuckle a long time ago."

"Is it a Muggle thing?" Neville asked politely.

"Probably," Angela replied. She was a half-blood, owing to her Muggle mother and magical father. She enjoyed being a part of both worlds – she felt more cultured, in a way.

"You'll get bonus marks for that, I'm sure."

"Jealous, are you?" Angela teased, despite her nervousness. She was surprised at how easy it came to her.

Neville grinned mischievously. "Nope – I can just add that to my own essay."

Angela gasped dramatically. "You wouldn't!"

"But I am helping you, remember! Surely you could return the favour." He was joking, but Angela didn't quite see it that way.

"Alright, fine. But won't Professor Sprout get suspicious if we're the only two talking about honeysuckle being associated with young fated lovers?"

"True. Or better still, she might get ideas about us…" Then, realising what he had just said, Neville blushed and stammered, "I-I mean, that's not what I meant, I was trying to s-say that-"

Suddenly the door to the greenhouse opened and saved Neville from having to explain himself. He inwardly sighed with relief as Professor Sprout stepped in and closed the door behind her. She was not at all surprised to see Neville there, and either didn't notice his flushed cheeks or deliberately chose to ignore it as she strode past them, carrying a potted plant.

"Good afternoon, Neville, Miss Wickham," she greeted them cheerfully. She was the only teacher who called Neville by his first name.

"Afternoon Professor," he replied courteously. Angela merely managed a small smile. "C'mon… you'd better finish this essay," he mumbled, moving his chair away from her, and Angela grudgingly obliged.

The silence was uncomfortable now, as Professor Sprout went in and out of her office during the next hour. Angela was surprised that she was able to concentrate, considering the words that had come out of Neville's mouth earlier. What did he mean by those words? Did he possibly have feelings for her? If that was true, Angela thought she might not be able to breathe properly ever again.

Just as the lesson was almost about to start, and the other students in their sixth-year Herbology class began to find their seats, Angela completed her essay. She read through it quickly, and without looking at her companion, got up from her seat and took her essay as well as Neville's and handed them both up to Professor Sprout.

As she sat back down she chanced a glance at her friend. He was back to reading Magical Mediterranean Water-Plants and Their Properties, and when the lesson officially started, he acted as if nothing had ever happened, and he was oddly distant.

The walk back up to the castle to their next class together, which was Defence Against the Dark Arts, was just as uncomfortable as the Herbology lesson had been. Neville still walked beside Angela, but he didn't say very much. Angela thought she might burst into tears at any moment, and then chastised herself for feeling so silly. Neville was supposed to be her friend, and so be it if he didn't like her the way she wanted him to?

However, when they entered the classroom most seats were already taken and Angela ended up sitting next to Seamus Finnigan, and Neville next to Hermione Granger. Angela watched jealously as Neville and Hermione worked together, talking quietly about their work and when Neville made her smile, Angela thought she might throw up.

The lesson couldn't have ended faster, and once they were dismissed by the formidable Severus Snape, Angela almost ran out of the classroom. She needed to get away – and fast.

For the next few days, Angela purposefully avoided Neville wherever possible. Obviously it was harder in the only two classes they shared together, Herbology and Defence Against the Dark Arts, but things had been made easier in the latter since Neville and Hermione now sat together.

The weekend finally arrived, and Angela relished in the fact that she could escape to various locations around the castle and not have anyone knowing where she was going. She needed peace and quiet, and time to herself to think, and so that's where Neville eventually found her, sitting by the edge of the Black Lake. She held in her hand a daisy, and she was picking the petals off one by one whilst muttering something to herself. Neville walked closer, and stood behind a tree that was closest to her. It was here that he finally heard what she was saying.

"He loves me, he loves me not… he loves me, he loves me not." Each time she said a 'he loves me' or a 'he loves me not', she pulled out a petal of the daisy. She reached the last one and whispered a disheartened "He loves me not" before throwing the helpless flower into the calm waters. She was about to pick up another one when Neville spoke up.

"Don't you think you've pulled up enough innocent plants?"

Angela turned around quickly from where she sat, and her eyes went wide as she spotted who had spoken. Neville had stepped out from behind the tree by now, and he was holding two scrolls of parchment in his hands. Angela's cheeks coloured and she looked away, not saying anything.

"Angela… I… I didn't mean that unkindly," Neville said. His words received no response from his friend. "I've been looking everywhere for you. Professor Sprout handed back our essays. You know, on the h-honeysuckle."

Angela let out a breath she hadn't known she had been holding, and then mumbled, "I'm sorry I've been avoiding you." She felt incredibly guilty.

"I should be the one saying sorry," Neville replied, and almost instinctively his legs carried him over to where she sat, and he sat down beside her on the dewy grass where many daisies grew. He was careful not to flatten any. Angela appeared to have been far more careless, which surprised him considering she also shared his fondness for plants.

They sat in silence for a while, the words, thoughts and feelings they really wanted to talk about left unspoken and bottled up. Neville suddenly remembered the scrolls of parchment he was holding, and broke the quiet. "Did you want to see what you got for the essay?"

"Yeah, I guess so." Neville held out her scroll of parchment and she took it, careful not to accidentally brush her fingers with his own. She unrolled it and looked at the grade up the top. She tried to hold back a small smile, but couldn't help it. She had received top marks, and Professor Sprout had made a point of noting that the information about the meaning of the blossoming vine was very interesting and had gained her bonus marks.

"Well done," Neville said, and then explained himself. "I mean, sorry, I kind of looked at yours when Professor Sprout handed them to me."

"I would have done the same," Angela reassured him. "What did you get?" Neville promptly handed his over, and Angela quickly unrolled it.

He had also received top marks for his essay on honeysuckle; the Muggle information about fated lovers well received and highly praised. They glanced at each other shyly, and then Neville said so quietly that Angela almost didn't hear, "Do you think she got ideas about us?"

A feeling of warmth spread throughout Angela's body from her head to her toes. "I wouldn't care at all if she did, would you?" she replied without thinking, aware that her face was burning.

"No, I… I wouldn't mind," Neville said nervously, swallowing. He had become rather aware of their proximity to each other.

"You do know the meaning of the daisy flower, don't you?" Angela asked, changing the subject, and picked out the same daisy Neville had stopped her from taking almost five minutes ago. She needed to calm herself down, and babbling on about random things helped her heart rate go back to normal. Never mind she had probably ruined the moment between them.

"Not really… Although I think I read somewhere that they meant innocence or purity," Neville replied. He felt better being able to talk about a subject he actually knew something about. Talking about matters of the heart just didn't quite come as easily to him.

"That's right. They also mean loyal love… I remember my mum reading me a short poem about them, and it's stuck with me. You want to hear?"

Neville nodded, and so Angela recited the quote. "Daisy, daisy, give me your answer true; I'm half crazy, over the love of you…" She blushed then, and so did Neville, but a smile played on his lips.

"Is this related to what you were doing before?"

"You mean the… 'he loves me, he loves me not' thing?" Angela asked, her voice shaking slightly out of nervousness. Talking about the meaning of daisies obviously hadn't calmed her down at all.

"Yeah, er, that."

"It's another Muggle thing. When you um, fancy someone, it's a silly way of determining whether or not they have feelings for you or not. It's not true, of course, but when I was younger I used to think it was. So you take the flower, like this, and pick off the petals, one by one. He loves me," she removed a petal, "he loves me not," she removed another. Angela continued all the way around the flower. After she had said the second to last petal – "He loves me not" – her breath caught in her throat and she couldn't go on. She couldn't say it. She was scared that it might not be true, but she was just as scared that it might be.

Neville shyly reached over and pulled off the last petal ever so gently, letting it fall onto the small patch of grass between them, and said hesitantly, "He loves her?"

Angela looked at him and bit her lip. He was awfully close now. "I hope so." She mentally slapped herself after saying these words. She had a terrible habit of saying things before thinking everything through and considering the consequences. She hung her head and blushed, expecting Neville to change the subject, or get up and walk away, but what she didn't expect was what he said next.

"He does." His cheeks burned the colour of a rose, yet he had spoken with such sincerity and surprising conviction. Angela lifted her head to meet his intense gaze, and her heart flipped over. She closed her eyes as he closed the gap between them, and they soon fell amongst the daisies, the essays about honeysuckle and young fated lovers long forgotten.