Let’s hear it for Professor Sprout – a true Hogwarts staple who was kindly and warm of heart on the surface, but an absolute powerhouse at her root. With her ramshackle patchwork hat, mad flyaway hair and soil-encrusted nails, the jovial professor wasn’t just green-fingered, but integral to the Hogwarts staff and surprisingly handy in a scrape.
Yes, Sprout may have been pleasant and approachable on paper, but she still stood her ground outside the greenhouse. Take the moment when Voldemort was on the rise and the remaining Hogwarts faculty were contemplating cancelling all classes following the untimely death of Albus Dumbledore.
In spite of her grief she stood firm in her conviction that ‘…if a single pupil wants to come, then the school ought to remain open for that pupil’.
Her thoughtful words of encouragement spurred a timid Neville Longbottom to great academic success – indeed, the once-hapless student went on to replace Professor Sprout as Head of Herbology. She handed out house points by the score to the brightest students, whatever their house affiliation… though it must be said she made a special point of snaffling prime plant and fungi specimens from the greenhouses to adorn the Hufflepuff common room. Small wonder that house so excels in the finer points of magical horticulture.
To be sure, she could be a soft touch sometimes – consider her dedication in fashioning tiny scarves and socks to comfort her beloved Mandrakes through the harsh winter. This gentle, attentive consideration for others, even to such ungrateful and disagreeable creatures as Mandrakes, marks Sprout out as the quintessential Head of Hufflepuff house. And let’s not forget the pivotal role her precious Mandrakes went on to play, providing the basis of the Restorative Draught that saved the likes of Hermione Granger, Nearly Headless Nick and (not least) Mrs Norris the cat from the debilitating effects of Basilisk exposure.
All of which is certainly not to say she was a weak-willed pushover. Most certainly not. When Harry Potter was pitted against Cedric Diggory in the Triwizard Tournament, Sprout made no secret of her preference for the heroic Hufflepuff underdog over the illustrious Mr Potter.
She was brave as well. Herbology expert or otherwise, it’s a bold soul who puts a wounded Whomping Willow in a sling. In the course of her career she must have been exposed countless times to such charming flora as the Venomous Tentacula: it is most risky when teething, and not a plant for the faint of heart.
In her own subtle way, she scorned evil by disdaining Headmistress Dolores Umbridge in the Great Hall with a sly sidelong glance at her longtime friend Minerva McGonagall. She furthermore undermined her twee temporary boss by slyly awarding Harry Potter spurious house points following the young wizard’s courageous and controversial Quibbler interview denouncing Voldemort, and by extension Umbridge’s tenure.
And when He Who Must Not Be Named was poised to attack Hogwarts, Sprout, acknowledging the hopelessness of her colleagues’ predicament, somehow mustered the courage to rally her nervous faculty with a stirring: ‘We can hold him up.’ When the inevitable battle began, Pomona took a hands-on role defending the castle, bravely flinging her own cultivated Mandrakes from the battlements at the invading horde of Death Eaters.
So let’s raise a Restorative Draught to Pomona Sprout – perhaps not an obvious hero, but certainly (in more ways than one) a grower.
Each month Pottermore will shine a spotlight on a character from the Harry Potter stories who we feel deserves more credit. Come back next month when we celebrate Aberforth Dumbledore.