A/N: This was written for Ladyoftheknightley's School Subject Competition, category "Herbology" (write about a platonic relationship), The Original Horcrux' Family Boot Camp with the prompt 'flower' and my own Pairing Diversity Boot Camp with the prompt 'phlox'.
"Neville! How good to see you! How are you?"
Neville turned around and smiled when he saw his former Herbology teacher Professor Sprout.
"I'm doing well, Professor. I'm married now, to Hannah. You remember Hannah? Hannah Abbott? She was in your House."
"Of course I remember Hannah," Professor Sprout smiled. "How is she doing? I seem to remember having seen her in the Leaky Cauldron a lot."
"That's right, she has taken over from Tom."
"That's great. And what do you do nowadays?"
"I'm researching the effect of the dragon phlox on the side affects of Side-Along Apparation."
"Hasn't that been researched before? I seem to remember that the effect were negligible," Professor Sprout questioned.
"Not if you combine them with the eglantine flower." Neville's eyes shone with passion. "The research is still in a rather experimental state, but so far the results have been promising. We noticed a fair diminishment of the nausea."
"That really sounds intriguing. You must be happy to have found a job you love so much. Of course, it shouldn't come as a surprise to me, you always were top of the class in Herbology."
"Well…" Neville hesitated and Professor Sprout lifted an eyebrow.
"I mean, the subject is great and one could never do enough research," Neville hasted to say, "but sometimes I get a feeling that there ought to be more. But here we are talking about me, how rude of me. How have you been Professor, are you still teaching at Hogwarts?"
"For the moment, yes."
Neville looked at her, puzzled.
"I'm thinking about retiring."
"Really? But you're not that old yet," he protested. "And who'll be teaching Herbology then?"
She laughed. "Why, thank you. But I'd like to quieten down a bit. And to answer your question: there is no one to replace me yet. I intend to stay at least another year. And besides, I haven't even told Minerva yet. She won't take it easy, I'm afraid." Suddenly, her eyes brightened. "Wouldn't you like to be a teacher Neville, by any chance? I'm sure if I tell Minerva that I'm retiring, but that I've found a replacement already… She won't have any objections if the replacement was you, I think."
"Me? A teacher? I'm not sure I can do that."
"I'm sure you'll be great. And you could spend the year as an apprentice teacher, so you won't have to figure it out on your own…" Professor Sprout grew more enthusiastic the more she thought about it, but Neville wasn't convinced yet.
"You know what, think about it," Professor Sprout said. "It was something I just thought up right now, but I can understand that you need some time to think it over. Just let me know. I think you'll be perfect for the job."
"Hey Hannah, listen," Neville said once he was back home.
"What is it?"
"I ran into Professor Sprout this afternoon."
"Oh, that's been a while! How's she doing?"
"She's okay, but she's thinking about retirement."
"Retirement? But she isn't that old yet, is she?" Hannah questioned.
"That's what I said," Neville said. "But listen, there's more. She asked me if I had any interest in taking up the position."
"As a teacher? That would be great Neville! You seemed to have lost the fun in your job a little lately, so this could be a welcome challenge!"
"Yeah, well, I think it's too much of a challenge perhaps..."
"Why? You know a lot about plants and you always were top of the class…"
"Yes, but that's not the same as being able to be a teacher. I mean, how would that even work? Me at Hogwarts, you in London with Frank and Matthew… And I'm not sure if the students would even listen to me and…"
"Neville," Hannah said. "Don't think about all the things that could go wrong. Ask yourself: do you want to be a teacher? Because if you do, then I'm sure we can work things out. But if you don't want to, there's no point in even trying."
Neville thought for a moment. He had always loved the subject and he had always felt at home at Hogwarts. And wouldn't it be wonderful to share his love for Herbology with others? He had wanted a bit more human interaction in his work…
A punch from Hannah woke him from his thoughts and she laughed. "Go send her an owl that you'll accept. I know that look on your face. You're already thinking about what you'll teach them, aren't you?"
Neville blushed. "You know me too well," he grinned sheepishly. "I guess I should send her an owl then."
"Professor? Where can I find the Screechsnap seeds?"
"They're in the right-hand cupboard, on the third shelf. And have I not told you to call me Pomona now that we're colleagues?"
"Yeah you did, it just takes a little time to get accustomed with it," Neville mumbled. He went to the cupboard and found the seeds easily enough. He would need them for the fifth years' lesson in a month, but they needed some time to grow to the right height.
Neville was nervous. Today was going to be the first lesson he would be teaching.
"Are you ready for it?" Professor Sprout – Pomona, he corrected himself – asked.
"I don't think so." He sighed. "How do I know what to do?"
"It's first years, first lesson of Herbology. So you can't really go wrong with that. Just ask them what they already know about the subject, explain a bit of the things that will be covered during the year – or during the semester, whatever fits you better."
"You never did that," he stated.
"No, but I'm not you," she laughed. She turned serious again. "What I'm trying to say is, don't try to be an imitation of me. Be the teacher you want to be, choose what works for you."
"I'll probably fail," he said miserably, a hint of his former schoolboy lack of confidence returning.
"Nonsense," Professor Sprout – Pomona – replied firmly. "We've prepared this over and over again. You're ready. You can do this Neville, have faith in yourself." She pointed at the Mimbulus Mimbletonia on his desk. "Is that the same Mimbulus Mimbletonia you got when you were a student?"
"See? That already proves that you know what you're doing. Most people aren't able to keep them alive for more than a couple of years, but yours already goes a long way back. You can do this," she repeated. "I'll be in the back of the Greenhouse should you have any questions."
The bell rang and Neville took a deep breath. "Well, I guess I'm going to find out now whether or not I can do this," he muttered.
He needn't have worried, for she had been right. The first five minutes of the lesson were a bit awkward, but after that, he started to get the hang of it.
His class was a group of first year Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs and in the fourth row, he discovered Victoire Weasley, who smiled encouragingly at him. He didn't see Bill and Fleur that often, but he couldn't believe Victoire was already at an age to attend Hogwarts. It made him realise how much time had past since he was a student himself.
"Welcome everyone to Herbology," he greeted the students. "My name is Professor Longbottom. Herbology is a fascinating subject, because we use plants for all kind of purposes. Now, to start with, who can tell me one of the purposes we use plants and herbs for?"
The students all looked at one another and finally a boy in the second row, who was wearing a Ravenclaw tie, hesitantly raised his hand. "Potions?" he said.
"Correct, a lot of plants and herbs are used in Potions. What's your name?"
"Gavin Boot," the boy replied.
"Very well, Gavin. You've just earned yourself your first five House points."
Gavin's face shone with pride and it reminded Neville of himself when he had been a first year.
Neville used the first half of the course to inventory what the students already knew. The second part of the course was used to familiarise the students with the subject, and he did so by having them put dragon dung on Honking Daffodils.
When the bell rang to announce the end of the lesson, Neville was surprised that the two hours had already passed. It hadn't really seemed that long.
"Congratulations, your first Herbology lesson is a fact." Pomona approached him. "Was it as bad as you had imagined it to be?"
"I guess it wasn't that bad," Neville admitted, "Though I think there were still a lot of things to improve."
"Don't put yourself down, Neville. No one gets it done perfectly in one go. You've done a great job with your first lesson, and it appears you've truly found your calling. You're a natural, boy."
Neville blushed at her kind words. He knew he wasn't a natural talent and that he still had a long way to go before he could actually call himself a teacher, but it was nice to hear his mentor praise him like that.
"You truly believe that I have what it takes then to make a good teacher?"
She shook her head. "No, I think you have what it takes to make a great teacher. Are you ready for lunch?"
"Yeah, I just need to rearrange the Valerian Roots."
"They can wait," Pomona said firmly. "They won't go anywhere."
They both laughed. Valerian Roots were about the dullest plants in the Hogwarts' Greenhouse.
As the walked toward the Great Hall, Neville thought that he might not be a teacher yet, but he was determined to give it his best. And he was confident that with Pomona's help and guidance, he would succeed.
"Neville Longbottom, Professor of Herbology," he muttered to himself. He definitely liked the ring of it.