Disclaimer: Harry Potter is not mine :)

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Of Spiral Steam
by: imago-quill

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"It's Veritaserum," Hermione said, words slipping out of her mouth as if they were of a speech she had practiced countless times, "a colorless, odorless potion that forces the drinker to tell the truth."

"Very good, very good," Professor Slughorn said happily. He then pointed at a cauldron nearest to the Ravenclaw table. She manically analyzed the cauldron; the bubbling noise it made, the surface bubbling slowly and the characteristic smell she filed under "toilet" and "cats fur". She could barely make it to raise her hand after Slughorn finished his question.

"It's Polyjuice Potion, sir," she said.

"Excellent, excellent!" Slughorn beamed. He was now pointing at the next cauldron and, with a skip of her heartbeat, Hermione's hand shot up in the air once again.

"It's Amortentia!"

She tried hard not to hyperventilate. She knew exactly what the substance in the cauldron could do, and it sounded abnormally feminine for her to hyperventilate at the topic.

"It is indeed," Slughorn said, his tone softened like how an elder man would talk about his youth to a teenager. His all-knowing smile didn't help either. "It seems almost foolish to ask, but I assume you know what it does?"

"It's the most powerful love potion in the world!" Hermione said, trying to keep her tone casual. She had recognized it the first time she stepped into the classroom. The smell had caused her heart to race that Hermione tried hard to cover her heating face or to keep her facial expression neutral. She tried hard to plant the thought that she was hyperventilating simply because she was in the same room with one of the irresistible potions in the Wizarding World, not because she felt as though he was around here–

"Quite right! You recognized it, I suppose, by its distinctive mother-of-pearl sheen?"

"And the steam rising in characteristic spirals," Hermione continued. "and it's supposed to smell differently to each of according to what attracts us, I can smell freshly-mown grass and new parchment and–"

She obviously didn't know why in the name of Merlin she spluttered out the detail; and she scolded herself mentally for it. Surely Slughorn didn't need the details in the slightest and it didn't help the lesson to progress either. Hermione stood statued, her lips obediently freeze in mid-sentence, and her eyes fixed somewhere in the space between the cauldron and herself as the distinctive smell began to stimulate few memories to resurface.

Time paused as she started to smell the grasses, newly mown. It might just all happen inside her head, for all she knew, because suddenly she felt her feet cold as though dampened with the morning dew that soaked the Quidditch Pitch ground. She even heard a soft rustling noise of her feet shuffling through the grass. She remembered the skirmish; the twins suddenly dove to tackle Malfoy after he insulted Hermione a Mudblood.

She smelled the new parchments, heard the frustrating ruffling sound when the twins unnecessarily shuffle the unordered papers back and forth, felt the fidgety sensation because she was dying to know their stupid prank stuffs she admired (not that she was going to admit it). She remembered how she had frequently spun her head back, throwing warning glares at them to stop making those annoying noises, hurting the muscles on her neck and driving her insane.

And she smelled medicine, the scent of alcohol in the bruise remover Fred had given her. She inhaled it, felt the creamy texture on her index finger, felt the burning sensation she had felt when she dabbed the paste on her punched eye. But overall, felt how their hands had brushed and her heart skipped as though he had set his legendary Whizbangs in it.

Slughorn smiled knowingly. "May I ask your name, my dear?"

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"Granger, Hermione," Professor Tofty announced. Hermione stood up, inhaling a deep breath to calm herself.

Hermione was about to enter her old Potions classroom in the dungeon for her NEWTs practical examination. She came back to Hogwarts to finish her education, and was now in the same year with her best friend, Ginny. Ginny gave her an assuring look and Hermione smiled back before confidently walk into the classroom.

She was admitted in, or more like saluted, by Professor Tofty ("Granger? The Hermione Granger? I should've known the only student to receive 139% in Charms two years ago is Harry Potter's aid!"). Hermione merely smiled, stiffly holding herself placid. She didn't actually like the attention she was getting, much less to be called Harry's aid. All she wished was just life to move on, not being in the stagnate condition where she would constantly feel like she was in the verge of tears at the thought of her family, living in Australia with no acknowledgement of her existence, or breaking down every day trying to grasp the fact that Fred was gone–

The classroom was unnervingly odorless and quiet, maybe to prevent students to foresee the test. The aisles between the four long tables were divided by a wall-length –she assumed, enchanted– curtain. Professor Tofty walked her through the first aisle, instructing her to identify a series of Potions and its uses in wizardry.

Hermione easily identified the Potions (Liquid Luck, Draught of Living Death, Veritaserum, the list went on) and enlist a bit of their uses in sorcery, busying herself. When she reached the other end of long table, Professor Tofty ushered her to another aisle, smiling wide as he admired Hermione's brilliance.

"If you can identify a group of Potions, with eyes closed…" Professor Tofty said. "Beg your pardon," he said first, and then non-verbally conjured a blindfold at Hermione's agreement.

She then started to explain thoroughly about each Potions, every so often stopping a moment to identify the smell.

Only then, she smelled them.

Freshly mown grass, new parchments and medicine.

Professor Tofty must have seen the small spot in the blindfold darkening, catching teardrops, because he was asking cautiously, "Miss Granger?"

"It's Amortentia, sir," she choked.

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A/N: The title "Of Spiral Steam" refers to Amortentia's steams (I don't know, I'm not good with making titles). This is my first angst fanfic, so every comments, feedbacks and constructive critics are highly welcomed!