Disclaimer: JKR owns the characters folks, but she has so nicely offered them up for play time.
The first thing she noticed was blue, the endless blue of the afternoon sky, filling her sight when she finally regained consciousness. Quickly, she reclosed her eyes to block out the bright light of the sun when it caused pounding to begin in her head. She licked her lips to moisten them, but found her throat parched from lack of water, and vaguely, she wondered where she was. Suddenly, as she felt a lurch below her, it all came flooding back . . . the screams, the explosion, and then someone grabbing her from behind. They had shoved her into a lifeboat, and it had plummeted over the side before she could tell them to save the children first. But then, another explosion had shattered the bow and sent metal and wood flying. Something had struck her head, and all she could recall after that was blackness.
Putting a hand to her head, she struggled to sit up. Gingerly, she opened her eyes against the pain, as her hand found a lump. Pomona gazed out from the tiny, yellow life raft and began to shake when realization struck her. All around her, in every direction, there was nothing but deep blue waves. No boats, no people, no land, just the never-ending, death-giving sea. And she was alone, the only survivor of the Albitania shipwreck.
Her hands sought the ropes of the boat as it lurched again, tossed upon the turbulent waves. She gripped them tightly, as her breath began to grow shallow and come in pants. Her vision began to blur, and she squelched down the desire to just throw her head back and cry. She was going to lose consciousness again if she didn't calm down. A thought struck her, and she frantically searched her robes. This time she did let out a sob. Things couldn't be worse. Pomona was alone, in the middle of the ocean… without food, without water, and…without her wand. Her head began to throb, and she put her hand up to explore it tentatively. When she pulled her hand away it was covered with blood. Tears came to her eyes. What was she going to do? How would she ever survive? "Oh, Filius," she wrenched out through her tears. "There was so much I needed to tell you." And she collapsed, as the pain became more than she could bear.
Filius sat in the Headmaster's office, staring at a clock on the wall. He was not really reading it, just using it as a focal point to detour all his thoughts. Albus paced in front of him while they went over the Charms budget for the coming school year. "How much did you say you needed for books this year, Filius?" Albus asked, pausing to look at the smaller man.
Filius shook out of his thoughts immediately and floundered a little. "I - I'm sorry, what did you say?"
"I was asking about books. How much this year, did you say?"
"Oh, umm, five sickles each. I managed to strike a deal with Flourish and Blotts. I thought the school could use the benefit." Filius smiled up at the Headmaster. "Um, excuse me, Albus. But, have you heard anything about the expedition?" He asked as casually as he could. Pomona was his dearest friend, and she had been selected by the Herbology Board to take a cruise to exotic ports and collect specific plants the Board wanted to study this year. She had been so excited when she told him about it, and he had been happy for her. It was a wonderful opportunity in her field. What he hadn't realized, at the time, was how much he would miss her, because although he had never told her, he loved her… desperately.
Albus turned and settled down on top of his desk to look intently down at Hogwarts' Charms professor. "I was at the Ministry yesterday, but there was no new report. At the last report, they had docked in Borneo and Sebatik and were then heading for Malaysia. I must say, I am very proud of Professor Sprout's accomplishments in Herbology for the school. I can't think of another in her profession who deserved this honour more." He smiled down at Filius.
Filius nodded in agreement. It was true. Pomona deserved this time away, to discover and grow in her vocation. However, he seemed a little lost without her. Why had he never noticed this before? He had concealed his love for her for a long time. In fact, he had been on the verge of telling her his feelings when she had burst through the door with her news. She was so happy that he refrained from telling her, not wanting to toss a black cloud on her joy in case she did not return his love. He sighed. It had been two weeks, and although she had sent him letters often, which helped with the loneliness, he still had another two to get through. He was just about to change the subject back to the Charms budget, when there was a steady tapping on the window.
Albus and Filius' gaze traveled to the window to find a large, black eagle owl settled there. "It is a little early for post… that looks like a Ministry owl," Albus sighed and frowned with concern. He wondered what, in Merlin's name, Cornelius Fudge, the Minister for Magic, could possibly want this early in the morning. He moved to open the window, and the owl flew in, landing on his desk. It immediately stuck it's leg out for Albus to retrieve the message. Absentmindedly, the Headmaster fed the owl a treat and took the vessel. The owl quickly gobbled his snack and took off out the window once more.
Albus opened the letter and immediately his face drained of colour. He staggered a bit and settled back on his desk to keep steady. Filius eyed Albus with concern. His mind began to conjure a dozen different scenarios of what could be wrong. He rose and placed his hand on Albus' arm in a comforting gesture. "Are you alright, Albus?" he asked tentatively. The Headmaster continued looking pale, and his hand shook, as he passed the letter to Filius.
Filius took the letter from Albus, and as he read, his heart sank to his stomach, as this scenario had not occurred to him. 'The Ministry of Magic has just learned, the Albitania, carrying Professor Pomona J. Sprout, of the faculty at Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry, sank as the result of a large explosion on its current route to Malaysia. The Ministry is currently meeting with the Muggle Prime Minister in an effort to form a search party for any survivors of the wreck,' the letter began.
Filius sucked in his breath and felt the blood leave his face. The room seemed to form a giant tunnel, as he realized his world would never be the same if they didn't find her. He felt as if all his breath had been stolen from him, and his mind traveled in tormented directions. What if Pomona was trapped… hurt… stranded… drowning- dead. He paled further at the last thought and shook his head to himself. He refused to believe she was dead. She couldn't be. He loved her too much. Surely, somehow he would know if she was dead. But then, another thought distressed him, what if she was dead, and he had never told her he loved her?
A lump rose in his throat, he had been a fool. His mind reeled, as all the memories of the times he should have told her flashed forward, and he brought a shaky hand up to cover his face. He felt a warm hand rest on his shoulder, and when he looked up, his eyes met the intense, blue eyes of Albus. The Headmaster was about to speak when the door of his office burst open, and Minerva came in, looking just as pale, if not more so, as the two men in the office. Her chest rose and fell quickly from her run, and she thrust out a Daily Prophet to the Headmaster.
"Albus? Pomona…" she began, and he rose to take the paper from her. He took her arm and led her to the chair Filius had vacated. She sat down, trying to recover.
"Sh, my dear. Let me see this." He unfolded the paper to the front page, holding it so Filius could see it also. The article showed a picture of the Albitania the day it left on the expedition. It was a Muggle cruise ship, and the cruise line had boasted of the exotic ports it would be visiting. The Herbology Board had decided to send one member to collect exotic plants, write new flora terminology, and observe the interaction of animals and plants in those locations. After many conferences, they decided to send Pomona, as she had done extensive research and created decisive terminology on other uses for dittany early in her career. As Albus and Filius looked at the photo, the Muggles all waved happily. The article below it mentioned the Herbology Boards decision to use Muggle transport to do research and mentioned Pomona's name as the researcher. It also speculated if there were any survivors, and how the Ministry was going to handle the situation.
"Albus…" Filius began.
"I know, Filius. Whatever they do, we are going to be there. Minerva?" Albus moved from the desk and hovered over the pale Transfiguration professor when she looked up at him. "I am leaving you in charge of the school. We will contact you as soon as we find out anything." Minerva simply closed her eyes and nodded, but didn't say anything, as the pain in her throat from her distress was too strong.
Albus and Filius made their way to the Castle gates to Apparate to the Ministry of Magic. The whole time, Filius remained quiet, but his mind was screaming at him for his foolhardiness. Why had he never told her? Why?
Pomona woke once more when she felt something pelting her face. As she opened her eyes, she realized it was raining. Her face was on fire and her throat felt raw and painful. She sat up again and her head swam, it was still throbbing. Once she steadied herself, she looked around the raft and noticed a red plus symbol on one side. Dimly, she recalled this was a symbol the Muggles used to indicate medical supplies. She moved carefully to the sign and found it was a compartment. With shaking hands, she pried it off and found bandages, antiseptic and other necessities for minimal survival. Among the objects, there was, blessedly, a single bottle of water. Her thirst was foremost on her mind, and she reached for it first.
When she brought the bottle to her lips, she remembered some study she had done on minimal first aid. When your body had been denied liquids it was important to sip, not swallow. She found it very difficult, but did as she had been instructed. The cool water offered some relief as she sipped. She wondered how long she had been unconscious. Off in the distance she heard a low droning, but when she looked out over the sea all she saw was water, waves and rain, as far as she could see.
A sharp pain stabbed her head, and she raised a hand to inspect the focal point. She felt the lump and winced. When she pulled her hand away there was little blood, but she knew she needed to clean and dress the wound to keep it from getting infected. She used the antiseptic and bandages from the supplies, and then leaned back in exhaustion. She took another few sips of water but put the cap back on as she didn't know when she would be in possession of any more, better to save it. She took the lid off the Muggle kit and laid it upside down to collect some of the rain water as well. She would try… she had to try to survive… if only to tell Filius she loved him.
Filius stood on the search ship looking out at the waves. His hands clenched and unclenched at his sides. He had lost hope. They had been searching for two days and had found no sign of survivors. They had, however, found signs of the wreckage. Floating wood and oil on top of the water indicated the disaster. Then, the Muggles had used a device and detected the remains of the sunken ship on the floor of the ocean below them. The Muggle officers had informed the Ministry team that it did not mean there weren't survivors, though. They had explained that the waters here carried a heavy current and if the lifeboats had been deployed, they may have drifted off. As they studied a map, they marked a search field to follow according to readings from the strength of the current and began the search.
When the teams began, hopes were high. But as each day passed, it began to dwindle. While some teams searched the perimeter, others dove to the wreck in search of answers for the disaster. Those answers seemed easier to find than any survivors. The Muggle team had discovered that the cruise line had let it's safety measures fall below standards. The reason for the tragedy had been a substandard heater in the engine room of the ship. When it had burst, it had caused a chain reaction in the boiler room, and the resulting explosions caused the ship to sink swiftly. They also found that only one lifeboat had been deployed, as all the others, which were supposed to be replaced, had not been. In essence, the ship had been a floating time bomb.
Filius had shuddered at the words used to describe the ship his beloved had left on. Now, his warm, brown eyes searched the waves and welled with tears. He felt a presence beside him, and a warm hand rested on his shoulder. He tried in vain to blink back the tears before he looked up at the man standing next to him. But when he looked up, the tears were still evident, for he no longer cared about hiding his feelings. He had done it for too long, and it had cost him everything.
"I loved her, Albus. I never told her… and now it's too late. I was a fool. Life's too short… you should tell Minerva you love her. Don't make the same mistake I did." He looked back out at the sea when Albus squeezed his shoulder, then lowered his head against his pain and mumbled, "Please forgive me, I need to be alone."
Albus nodded and cleared his throat around the rawness that rose at the younger mans revelation. He had suspected, for some time, Filius' feelings for Pomona, but he didn't know Filius knew of his love for Minerva. He was right though. Life was too short. "I am sorry, Filius, and I understand. I am here if you need me." With his words, the smaller man turned from him and walked away down the deck, his once upright shoulders now downcast in his grief and pain.
Albus felt like they were giving up, but the reality was, all facts pointed to no survivors. They had searched the surrounding area according to the experts and come up with nothing. The Muggles had switched the status of the mission from rescue to recovery when they had discovered hundreds of bodies trapped near the bow of the ship at the bottom of the sea. So far, Pomona had not been among them. If it was true, if she had not survived... he closed his eyes against the ache that thought caused... he hoped they recovered her body to give Filius some closure. He swallowed in a throat that had gone suddenly dry. He was going to miss Pomona greatly, but he knew Filius would miss her so much more.
Pomona sat up and reached for the water bottle once more. She studied it hazily. The amount inside was dwindling, but she took a small sip anyway. She had no concept of time, and she longed to see Filius once more. As she had dozed she dreamt of him; his smile, his chuckle, his chocolate eyes that seemed to dance when they landed on her. Now that she was awake, once more, the gravity of her situation weighed heavily upon her. Had she enough fluid in her she would have cried, but her painful eyes remained dry. Numbness had settled over her, and she now only felt the pain of her loss. The fact that she had never told Filius she loved him, that he would never know, caused her heart to wrench painfully in her chest. The fact that no tears would come just frustrated her more.
She took another sip of water, searching for relief that never seemed to come. The last drop of the water landed on her parched tongue, and she tilted up the bottle looking for more. Her body was weak; she closed her eyes in a silent plea for someone, anyone, to find her. But when she opened them again they met the barren sea beyond. Her hand loosened its grip on the bottle, and it wedged in the ropes of the little boat. She was so tired. The temptation to drift off and dream of her love lured her away from this harsh reality, and it was getting harder and harder to resist. Soon, she would succumb to the dream and remain in his arms forever, never to resurface.
Filius stood at the stern of the ship lost in his thoughts. Tears streamed down his face. He was willing himself not to wallow in self pity, but the inner struggle was losing. Suddenly, an owl flew down and landed on the railing. He looked at it through his tears. He did not want to deal with news from the school or his relatives; he just wanted to be alone. He was about to send the bird away when he noticed the writing. His name was written in Pomona's familiar looping scrawl. He reached out a trembling hand and took the letter from the golden bird, and with shaking hands, he opened the letter. The owl flew off in a huff having not received a treat, but Filius only had eyes for the letter in front of him. His eyes refilled with tears as he read.
'My Dearest Filius,
Borneo was terribly hot today. Even my greenhouses are not this hot, and I marvel at the plants that thrive here. I found a new species of honking daffodil, and it made me think of you, and how you always give them to me to cheer me up.
The local wizarding community is very friendly, and they asked about you when I mentioned the school. Last night, there was a dueling competition, and the excitement was enthralling. I know you would have enjoyed it. I wish you were here, and that I could share this with you. But you will have to endure my pitiful descriptions instead.
The ship leaves this evening for Malaysia. I will write again soon. Please give my regards to Albus and Minerva.
'With love, Pomona.' He read the words over and over again. It was cruel. Here, she was gone, and still he received a letter from her as if nothing had gone wrong, as if she had not been stolen away too soon. He could feel the smile in her words as she had written them down. How could she be gone? His grief gave way, and he collapsed to his knees on the deck, holding the letter tightly to him. Sobs purged his chest as he grasped the ropes of the railing. The pain was unbearable, how could he go on? Somehow, he didn't think he could go on in a world where she did not exist. As he leaned against the railing, the waves below seemed to call to him, beckon him to where he thought she rested. But, before he could answer the call, a flash blinded him.
He looked up from his remorse and threw up an arm to shield his eyes. In the distance he saw it, a flash on the water, beyond the search zone. His heart seized up. Could it be the only life boat? That it had drifted past the zone they had sectioned off? Hope reentered his heart. He didn't know what it was, but he had to find out. He would never forgive himself if it was Pomona, and he had said nothing.
"I see something out there!" he shouted, attempting to gain attention from the Muggle and Ministry officials.
He turned and ran to the bridge and met Albus on his way. "I saw something, a flash, just out beyond the search zone." He turned and pointed behind him. Albus looked in the direction Filius pointed, and another flash sparkled at just that moment.
"I see it too!" he exclaimed, and they both turned and ran up the stairs to the bridge.
Albus and Filius stood at the bow as the ship made it's way toward the flash. Slowly, a small, yellow lifeboat came into view. It was hard to see if anyone was in it, but as they neared, Filius realized it was Pomona, and for a moment, his heart soared with joy. It soon plummeted again when he realized she was not moving. Her face was badly blistered, and there was dried blood on her forehead. Silently, he pleaded, 'Please, Merlin, let her be alive.'
Something flashed in his eyes again, and he saw the empty, plastic water bottle tangled in the ropes. Thank Merlin for small favors. That had been the flash that made him look up. Filius took out his wand and looked up at Albus. The Headmaster nodded, and Filius gently levitated Pomona up to the ship and the waiting Ministry medics on their team. They moved her to the Infirmary quickly, Albus and Filius on their heels.
Once in the Infirmary the medical team went into action. They quickly removed Pomona's robes and replaced them with a gown. They also began giving her fluids and treating her wounds. Filius stood back, wringing his hands, and at a loss at being unable to help in any way. His heart soared again when he detected movement from Pomona. She had regained consciousness while the medical team worked. "Filius," her voice was barely a whisper, but Filius heard it and stepped forward.
"Pomona," he began, "don't talk. Let them do their work... make you well."
But Pomona didn't want to wait any longer. A strange feeling was coming over her, and she needed to tell him, before it was too late. She looked up at his deep, brown eyes, drew a deep breath and told him, "I love you." Those were the only words she uttered as she surrendered to the heaviness taking over her body. She was so tired, and she finally gave in. As she whispered them, she drifted off, and the monitors the medics had attached to her suddenly started to alarm.
"We're losing her!" One mediwizard shouted.
"Mona? No, please… Mona, I love you! Please don't leave me," he pleaded with her as his hand gripped hers tightly. The medics pushed in and pulled Filius away from Pomona, and Albus moved to his friend, laying a hand on his shoulder to restrain him.
"Filius, we must let them do their work."
The smaller wizard looked up at him through his tears. "She said she loves me, Albus. She loves me." Albus nodded, and Filius looked back at Pomona while the doctors worked. He closed his eyes against the scene before him when they used life resuscitating measures in an attempt to revive her. "I just want the chance to tell her I love her, too. That I have always loved her, and I always will," he whispered.
Pomona was tired, just so sleepy. She told Filius how she felt, and then gave into the overwhelming need to just fall asleep. She drifted off, and a swirling began in her head. Suddenly, as if in a dream, she saw a room below her. Mediwizards hovered around her body, and she saw Filius being restrained by Albus. As she watched, she heard the tortured words of love whispered from Filius. A brilliant joy entered her heart, and she smiled. He loved her. After all the years when she had been afraid to tell him, and he returned her love. But something was wrong, why didn't her face show her smile? It was then that she realized she was dying. Her body lay there on the table, being urged by the medics to revive, and her spirit was floating above, watching. Suddenly, she felt her essence lifting as the scene before her became smaller and smaller.
"No! Filius, I am here! I don't want to leave!" she shouted, but no one heard her. She struggled in vain to stay in the room, but it continued to get farther and farther away. She had no choice but to go, as she could not hold on to anything to help her remain, and sadly, she accepted her fate. Gently, she blew a gentle kiss toward Filius. She would be waiting for him on the other side; it was all that was left for her.
Filius strained against Albus' hand. Time seemed to crawl as the mediwizards worked on Pomona. He watched as one began to shake his head and lower it. Another also shook his head and moved his hand to cover the hands of the mediwitch with the resuscitating device. She eyed him and frowned. She began to lower her hands at his request and Filius sobbed, "No, please!"
"Just once more," the mediwitch told them, and the other man nodded. She placed one rod on each side, and Pomona's body jolted off the table. There was silence for a moment as everyone held their breath, and then a monitor gave a steady blip. "She's back, we've got her! Keep pumping those fluids," the female commanded.
Filius sank to the floor as he shook with relief at the announcement. Albus joined him, and Filius saw that his friend had tears in his eyes too. The two men shared a hug for a moment, then rose from the floor when the medics ask them to make room for them to work. But they didn't ask them to leave. Patiently, Filius waited while the team worked, twisting and untwisting his hands. After what seemed like eternity, the mediwitch declared Pomona stable and they moved back.
"You can stay with her now," the woman told Filius softly.
His smile trembled as he took a tentative step toward Pomona. He was a bit beset by all the monitors she was still hooked to, but he knew they were necessary. She looked like she was sleeping, like she had been through so much in such a short time. He picked her hand up off the cot and held it to his cheek. He wasn't going to leave her side until she was safe; until he could tell her he loved her face to face.
The medic team quickly arranged for Pomona to be transported to St. Mungo's to receive the best care. Filius was with her through everything, and when she finally woke, his face was the first one she saw. When her light brown eyes rested on his face, she smiled, almost cracking her severely chapped lips, but she didn't care. Because the moment her eyes opened, Filius pulled her hand to his cheek and proclaimed his love to her. He also fussed over her and told her he never wanted to be without her again.
Months later, when she was fully recovered, Pomona reflected on that time in their lives. She decided she was not resentful of what she had gone through, but grateful for it; because although she returned from her expedition without the items she was searching for, what they had discovered, meant so much more.