Professor Sprout could not believe it. When they had informed who was waiting in the greenhouse, she was sure it had to be a mistake. Perhaps they were referring to the son. However, as she looked down the aisle of neatly planted mandrakes, she saw it was indeed true.
Lucius Malfoy was waiting for her in the greenhouse.
She tried to remember when it was that she last saw him in this environment. A lackluster student of herbology, Malfoy had been notorious for cutting her class. When he did attend, he spent most of his time causing annoying distractions as well as disrespecting her and the other students. When policies changed and the seventh year students no longer had to take classes with her, the idea that Mr. Malfoy was no longer attending came as a huge relief.
On seeing him now, not a lot had changed in the man. Still holding himself regally and stiffly as he did when he was younger, he exuded a sense of menacing superiority. His robes were fine, expensive ones. Rumor had it that a tailor in France not only created the robes but also did the weaving of the cloth. Malfoy money could buy anything, Sprout mused to herself as she walked closer to him.
Malfoy noticed Sprout out of the corner of his eye as she came closer, although he pretended to be inspecting the mandrake. The less he had to look at the homely Professor Sprout the better, he thought to himself. He just wanted get this over with as quickly and as painlessly as possible.
"Good day, Mr. Malfoy," Sprout greeted her former student. "It has been a long time."
"Indeed," Lucius intoned slowly. "Several years since I had the pleasure of entering the humidity of your greenhouse, I do believe." He took his cane and poked it around the mandrakes.
"I suppose you are here regarding your son's progress in school, sir?" Sprout inquired nervously. She was not fond of others who invaded the mandrake's privacy.
"No, actually I have another topic I need to discuss with you," Lucius said, withdrawing his cane from the plants. "I am here to acquire something special for my wife."
Sprout was puzzled. "We are not a florist shop here at Hogwarts, sir. There is a fine one in town if that is what you require. All that is grown here is for the student's education."
Lucius snapped his cane down and she heard a loud tap as it hit the floor. "I have been to the floral shop you speak about. Nothing there that will do for my Narcissa. However, the shopkeeper there did tell me of a private collection of yours and said there may be something in it that will satisfy my needs."
Sprout gasped at these words. Her private collection had been a secret for years. She had been growing an assortment of rare and exotic species of magical plants with the intent to sell them for a small profit to the local florists. The money never amounted to much. However, it helped at Yule time, when a birthday present was needed, or when one of the students needed something to make their lives easier. Many girls had mysteriously received a new pair of shoes for the Spring Festival or a boy or two had found a pair of new Quidditch gloves in their locker. However, the head master frowned on a side business such as this so she had kept it a clandestine operation for years. Sprout fumed at the idea that her partner had let the secret out and to Lucius Malfoy of all people.
"I don't really know what you are talking about sir," Sprout stammered. "There is no private collection."
Lucius raised his cane and carefully examined the snake's head that adorned the end of it. "Professor, it is not going to do you any good to lie about this. I know it exists and I am very sure that Professor Dumbledore does not. Contraband is illegal no matter what form it takes. Let us stop mincing about here and take me to your private collection. Now."
Sprout sighed. She sadly recognized she was caught in Malfoy's web and freeing herself was impossible. She drew her wand from her robes and walked to a brick wall in the greenhouse. She flicked her wrist and murmured a few words. A bright flash of blue light appeared and the brick wall parted. What it revealed was a wonder to the senses.
Inside was a large atrium filled to the glass ceiling with plants and flowers. A thousand bright colors competed with each other for attention. The scents, although each was different and unique, did not over power one but instead soothed and excited with each breath.
"The private collection, Mr. Malfoy," Sprout said, a hint of pride rising through her. "Now, what is it that you are searching for?"
Lucius walked past her and gazed at the flora trying to hide his wonder. "A present for my wife is required. Narcissa is a woman of great beauty and style. She also is possessed of a suspicious nature. I am looking for something that will show her my love for her is profound and deep. A symbol of a never ending, ever lasting affection."
Sprout nodded at her guest's words. "Perhaps these would do the trick. Wonder Lilies. They only bloom when the person who has received them are in the room."
"A little common."
"Dreaming Roses then. They swirl colors on their petals. Somewhat like a kaleidoscope."
"Reminds me of that damn niece of hers. No, what else is there?"
"Patchwork Pansies then. Right here. Lovely little plants. They intertwine blossoms and make new blossoms. Quite fascinating to watch."
Lucius kicked a flat that was on the floor in the corner of the atrium. Compact little plants with tiny orange blooms and bright yellow centers, there had to be at least twenty pressed tightly on the flat. "What are these things?"
"Pygmy Forgive-A-Lots. Their leaves and blooms, if touched, make one forgive another who has caused them harm or they soothe cure hurt feelings."
Lucius tapped his cane on the floor and pointed to the plants. "Perfect. These will do."
"Mr. Malfoy," Sprout said surprised, "those are such bland little flowers. Surely the other flowers or plants will impress your wife much more than these humble little blossoms."
"These will do," Lucius answered turning from the flat and heading for the entrance of the atrium. "I will send my house-elves this afternoon to fetch them."
Sprout hurried her short legs after Lucius who made wide strides to the entrance. "Are you sure this is what you want?"
"I am sure," Lucius said emphatically. "This is exactly what I require. A few ribbons on the pots would help. And of course a card of which I have right here." From his sleeve a small envelope dropped, and with a twist of his hand landed in his fingers.
Sprout took the card from him. On the envelope, it had one word. Narcissa.
"A few ribbons and this card," Sprout mumbled. She disliked being treated as a servant.
Lucius, who sensed her displeasure, reached under his cloak and withdrew a large velvet pouch. He handed it to Sprout. She her jaw dropped as she realized it was filled with galleons, more than she had ever made during her private collection's enterprise.
"The plants will be ready when your servants arrive, sir," Sprout gulped.
"Please make that so, professor," Lucius said as he reached into his cloak and retrieved a pair of black leather gloves.
"Your discreet behavior in this matter will be expected," he continued as he put his gloves on. "I would like Narcissa to be surprised at this gift."
Sprout nodded in agreement and Lucius smiled wickedly at her.
"Good day, professor," he said and he tipped his cane at her.
She watched him as he exited the greenhouse and walked down the corridor to the main building. Two seventh year girls were walking in the opposite direction, giggling and talking to each other. As they passed, Lucius took a long, hard, lecherous stare at them. His eyes followed their movement for longer than was respectable. Sprout was appalled. Those girls were hardly older than his son was.
She looked down at the card that Lucius had given her. The envelope was not sealed. Although she knew it was wrong, she opened the envelope and read the card.
For My Darling Wife. Forgive Me and My Transgressions. Yours L.
Sprout returned the card to the envelope. Disgusted by his overt trick to get Narcissa to forgive and forget sickened her. Knowing that his foul behavior was not going to stop made her feel sorry for Mrs. Malfoy, too.
Sprout returned to her greenhouse fuming that Lucius Malfoy had invaded her private collection and for such a base, selfish need. Getting back into his wife's good graces would not last long, even with twenty of the Forgive-A-Lots. She looked toward the opening of the atrium and was about to cast the spell to close it down again when a thought occurred to her. She entered the atrium again and searched about the potted plants until she found it. With heart shaped leaves and bright blue flowers, the plant twirled a vine about her wrist as if to remind her that it was there. She picked the plant up and dusted off its pot.
" Fideleous Spouseous ," she said to herself as she held the plant up for inspection. "Common name, Forever Faithfuls. Used by the ancient witches for years to keep husbands from straying. A good quick whiff of this and no man will ever wander in heart or soul from his wife."
She looked about the atrium for a quill and some parchment. At last, she found a tiny bit. She neatly printed "Lucius" on the paper. Satisfied, she stepped back and placed the folded parchment on the Forever Faithful plant.
She grinned to herself. "I'll just add this to the order, Mr. Malfoy. No charge."