Disclaimer & Notes: If Squaresoft has no reason to sue me, then neither should JK Rowling; I'm making no money from this -- if I were, I'd update more often. This was originally called "An Odd Occurence," but I have since reworked it and thus it deserved a new title. Please, enjoy.
Despite her long-held belief that professors were to be respected and rarely gainsaid, even Hermione Granger had been a little dubious about their latest topic in Potions. In her mind, the last topic which the seventh-years needed to be studying was something as seemingly useless as love potions. Even after seven years of magic education, love potions still smacked of ridiculous to someone raised in the Muggle world; the idea of such a thing reminded the girl of those silly movies which came on late nights, or silly songs about kissing policeman. Coupled with their dubious reputation even among wizards, even Hermione had been unsure of their importance.
As usual, she had read the chapters which Snape had assigned them, but had merely thought that the extensive background had been just that -- background. It wasn't until she had finished those readings that she had understood exactly why the concoctions would be study-worthy for witches and wizards about to enter the real world, one which was plagued with danger and intrigue.
"We're doing what?!"
"Five points from Gryffindor, Weasley. And five more if you don't stop gaping at me like a fish!"
Unfortunately -- and, Hermione added to herself, as usual -- she was apparently the only person to have completed the assigned readings and so the other students in the Gryffindor/Slytherin classroom were taken by surprise and dismay by the unusual subject. She settled into her seat, sighing as the inevitable sniping of Hogwarts' least favorite teacher began.
"Since some of you seem surprised by my current choices of topics," sneered the Potions Master, black robes billowing around him as he moved through his classroom. "Perhaps one of your classmates would like to enlighten you as to the importance of this topic?" His black eyes swept the classroom. "Anyone?"
As if by instinct, Hermione's hand shot up, although it was without the overenthusiastic hand-waving which had characterized her as first-year. Snape looked over her as if she were invisible. "Anyone?" he asked again, his silky voice deceptively soft. "Mr. Malfoy, perhaps you could enlighten us?" Draco's pale head shook slightly as he tried to shrink away from his Head of House's dark gaze which watched him disapprovingly. "I see. Can anyone other than Miss Granger answer my question?"
When no one else offered, Hermione couldn't help the flicker of satisfaction which crossed her face as Professor Snape sighed dramatically, his voice heavy with resignation. "Very then, Miss Granger. Why are we studying these particular love potions?"
"Because the magical theories which are the basis for these particular kind of love potions are the same fundamental ideas which are employed in most other kinds of coercion magic, such as the Imperius Curse."
"As usual, Miss Granger, you've managed to do what you do best -- be an annoying know-it-all. But you are correct."
The snickering of the Slytherins at Snape's cutting remark did little to unnerve the witch; if she had learned nothing else in her seven years of Potions' classes, it was how to suffer the brunt of stinging and undeserved criticism.
"As you would know if you had read for assignment," the professor continued, sneering superiority in his rich voice. "The coercive elements of today's potion can have a variety of different uses in different potions, especially when used in tandem with darker ingredients. And those potions are far more dangerous than the Imperius Curse. In this form, a victim is virtually defenseless against its effects once it has been imbibed." He paused dramatically, waiting for the reactions which his words would cause. A few seconds later, a noticeable nervous ripple went through the Gryffindor half of the classroom, Hermione among them. She knew that her class-mates were recalling the rather blunt display of the Imperius' power during their 4th year Defense Against the Dart Arts class, when Professor Crouch/Moody had introduced them to the Unforgivable Curses. It had been sobering then, to think that someone had the ability to make them do whatever they wanted but it had been tempered by the knowledge that one could build an intolerance against it; Harry had done so quickly. But with these potions available and no way to defend one's self….Hermione shuddered almost imperceptibly at that thought.
However, the slight movement had not gone unnoticed by the dour instructor. "Don't worry yourself, Miss Granger," he mockingly consoled her. "If you brew your potion correctly, you'll learn that these potions have a very unique and disturbing taste and smell. All of you -- with a few notable exceptions -- should, at the very least, be bright enough to recognize it as unpalatable before you drink it under other circumstances." As he spoke of exceptions, his scowl had lingered on Herimone's lab partner, causing Neville Longbottom to cringe in mortification from the obvious insult being hurled his way.
Without another word or a glance toward the menacing look which Hermione was giving him, Snape turned his back on the class and began to write out the ingredients which they would need for lab work. She, of course, knew most of them from her readings, but still faithfully jotted them down before she began to set her and Neville's cauldron, whispering soothing words of wisdom to the nervous boy at her side as she did so. Hermione had always hoped that one day the young boy would have gotten over the debilitating fear which took hold on him every time their Potions professor was near but, after seven years and little change, she had given up on that particular dream. She now only prayed that he would last long enough to take his NEWTs at the end of the spring term.
She carefully ground the small amount of frozen Ashwinder eggs needed for the spell in her marble mortar while she set Neville to chopping the dried banwort petals despite the slight shake in his hands as he handled the sharp knife. Even as she concentrated on the task at hand, she focused her ears on Snape as he gave more detailed instructions. "Once the potions -- which I assure you has been sufficiently modified as to have limited effect time-wise -- have cooled, each of you will need your partner's hair to be added to your flask before you sample it. This is another reason which makes these potions difficult to prepare. They are rather like the Polyjuice potion in that way."
The Gryffindor witch couldn't stop another involuntary shudder from shaking her shoulders at that memory. Being covered in fur from a botched try at the Polyjuice potion had certainly made her wary of anything which offered to change her outward appearance. She now chose to do that under the watchful eye of her Transfiguration professor under whom she was studying to be an animagus. No need to repeat past mistakes, she assured herself quickly.
Finally, the potion began to thicken and deepen to a rather unsavory green while Hermione stirred briskly, its viscosity reminding her of instant pudding; a thought which lightened the terse mood of the class. It seemed, if it were at all possible, that dungeon classroom was even more tense than usual. Most likely due to the current topic, she realized. Most people were probably dreading just how strong the completed potion would be, and Hermione knew that a strong potion would cause many of the students to act in a way which would embarrass them once the effects were gone. She, however, wasn't worried. Having actually read the chapter, she was aware that the strength at which they were brewing, the result would be weak.
As the potion cooled, Hermione noticed that Snape had been correct about the smell. It was a pungent aroma, strong and caustic. In truth, it reminded her of ammonia, a basic solution used in Muggle cleaning agents, particularly glass cleaner. She wrinkled her nose whenever she accidentally wafted some of the scent toward her face as she stirred. Once she had carefully ladled half of the mixture into each of the flaks, she turned to Neville. "I'll need a bit of your hair." He nodded, leaning toward her so that she could snip a few strands the fine hairs at his nape. "All done."
He gave her a timid smile. "Much easier than when my gran cuts my hair on holidays. She won't use magic -- says it never comes out right. I always fidget and she trims it uneven."
"That happens to me even when I don't fidget," Hermione told him as she trimmed a few curly wisps from her long, tangled hair. "It kinks up so much that the hairdresser can never cut it straight."
Neville, taking the proffered hair sample, dropped the strands into his own cup whilst his partner did the same with the hair she'd plucked from him. Like everyone else, they stopped at that stage, waiting for further instructions.
From his place on the dais, Snape nodded slightly when he noticed that everyone had made it up to that point in the potions-making process without having had anything explode. All in all, it was shaping up to be an unusually peaceful class. "Very well then, now that everyone's potions should be ready, it's time to test. Remember -- try and record your experiences and emotions under the potion's influence, particularly the compulsion aspect. Such information might prove useful on the next exam." He waved his hand at them, long black sleeve flowing behind the motion. "Go on."
"Here goes nothing," she grinned at Neville as she lifted her flask.
He did the same. "Bottoms up, I guess." Without another thought, he downed the contents, wincing at the taste.
The rest of the class was doing the same. Behind them, Ron was gagging on his while Harry groaned, "Ugh. It tastes worse than it smells."
Hermione paused before ingesting her own foul-smelling green brew, taking a moment to form an hypothesis about exactly how she would feel once she had taken the love potion. It was a logical step in any kind of experiment, to make such suppositions. It was part of her orderly and sharp thinking to do so, as well as her Muggle background since her teachers had pounded the "scientific" method into her head since grade school.
From Snape's description and her own reading, she concluded that it was supposed to act very much like a potion form of the Imperius; she wondered if she would feel like she had when she had been put under the Imperius during 4th-year Defense Against the Dark Arts. That wonderful, floating feeling of complete submission, the vague happiness as one complied with the orders given. It couldn't be exactly the same, she mused, but it was a close estimation.
With that decided, she tipped back her ammonia-scented drink and gulped.
And then she winced, recoiling against the taste. Dear God, that's horrible! she moaned to herself, taking care to note in the back of her mind the precise descriptors she would need to adequately describe the vile concoction in the report they would be required to write.
Hermione set the flask on the desk with a clink, waiting for the potion to take effect. She glanced over at Neville who seemed to be regarding her with a faintly goofy but shy grin, his face suffused with pink as she leaned closer to whisper, "Did yours work?"
Turning an even brighter shade of pink, he nodded dumbly, his smile a little wider.
To say that Miss Granger was confused and frustrated would have been an understatement. She glanced back down at her notes, still waiting for some reaction to manifest itself. Something should have happened by now, she realized dejectedly, her brow furrowed in concentration. But nothing was happening to her. Hermione felt no more affection for Neville than she had when class had started, and she certainly felt no compulsion on her part to act on any imagined emotions. She bit her lip nervously, her mind rapidly going through the steps she had taken over the course of the brewing. Finding nothing amiss, she heaved a audible sigh of consternation.
"A problem, Miss Granger?" Snape asked softly, stealthily approaching behind her so that she was completely surprised by his velvety voice in her ear. Startled, she jumped. "Miss Granger?"
She looked up at him, her frustration apparent in her solemn brown eyes. "I don't understand it, sir."
He raised an eyebrow at her uncharacteristic statement. "Am I to understand from that remark that you are not under the effects of the love potion?"
She nodded morosely. "It…didn't work, Professor." She waved vaguely at her notes. "I'm sure I did everything correctly."
At such a proclamation -- made by the resident genius, at that -- everyone's attention slowly wound its way from their own conversations, caught by the unusual scene unfolding at Hermione's workbench. For her part, she braced herself for a scathing comment about her obvious incompetence, steeling herself for the verbal blow.
It never came, however, even though something like a sneer passed over Snape's face. "Yes, obviously," he told her coolly. "Mr. Longbottom's current state of infatuation with you attests to the fact that you somehow managed to brew the potion correctly. Perhaps….the problem lies within its administration."
"I added the hairs," she assured him. "And then I drank it all despite its horrible ammonia smell. I--"
The remainder of Hermione's sentence ended abruptly when her professor suddenly reached out and tilted her face upwards by the gentle pressure of one hand under her chin. His hand was pale and fine-boned, the long fingers cool and smooth on her skin as she was forced to look up, her eyes wide in confusion. Snape's dark eyes were examining her thoroughly, his face uncomfortably close to hers. His gaze lingered on her eyes before he released her. "Extremely odd," he murmured, stepping back.
He closed his eyes briefly and sighed, as if asking to be delivered from curious young women who asked far too many questions. "Even if you had incorrectly administered the potion and therefore were free of the coercive effects, there would still be some physical indications. Dilated pupils, being the most obvious. The eyes also become glassy, unfocused. Your eyes, on the other hand, are as alert as usual."
"Oh." Hermione wasn't certain what to say to that. "So, wh-what went wrong, then?"
"As you should know, Miss Granger," Snape began, raising his voice as he moved away, heading back toward his desk. "There are ways to counter the effects of the Imperius. And these potions are related to that particular curse."
"But you said that there was no defense against these kind of coercive potions," she protested darkly, becoming increasingly more baffled. Everyone else in the class had managed to brew the potion and drink it, causing each and every one of them to experience the correct reaction. What had she done wrong?
"I said that there was virtually no defense," he drawled dryly, although much of his attention was on the large, weathered tome in which he was furiously searching the yellowed pages which made a crisp sound as he flipped through them. "Few things are absolutely impossible, Miss Granger."
"But there was no mention of any kind of defense in the text," she rebutted. "And the failure rate of such a potion is stated to only be at 1 in every 1000 correctly brewed and administered doses."
"You've just proven yourself wrong and your own logic faulty," Snape returned, frowning as his eyes scanned the ornate scrawl of the old alchemy book. "As you have just quoted the figure which proves that there has to be a way to counter its effects or else that one failure in one-thousand would not result."
Hermione gave him a dark look, but wisely kept her comments to herself. The rest of the seventh-years present were still watching the drama unfold in breathless anticipation, strangely quiet and the girl could feel their eyes on her. Malfoy spared a glance back at her to give self-satisfied smirk, as if she had botched the assignment solely for his amusement. She glowered back at him, her eyes glittering dangerously in a way which Harry and Ron knew meant serious trouble. They had always learned over the years that if there was one time in which Hermione's fundamentally kind nature would lose to her temper, it was when schoolwork was involved.
"Here it is," the professor announced, running a pale finger down the aged page until it was pointing to a paragraph mid-way down the page. He quickly read through the words he found there, before glancing back at his unhappy student whose face was drawn as she waited for his answer. "The reason that this particular method of defense is not mentioned in most of the texts is that it is an unreliable one," he explained. "Unlike learning how to fend off the Imperius or slowly building an immunity against a poison by ingesting it, one is unable to master it through study. It is not based on knowledge or skill." His eyes darted away from Hermione and rested briefly on the bespectacled boy who sat behind her, his famous scar almost hidden by a fringe of unruly dark hair. "The fact of the matter is, Miss Granger," his voice was honed to its sarcastic edge. "That it appears to be all about love." He said the last word in the same tone of voice which most Muggles reserved for ideas such as 'magic' or 'the tooth fairy.'
Hermione blinked at such an arcane comment while the Slytherin side of the classroom sniggered. "I beg your pardon, Professor? I don't believe I understand."
He pinched the bridge of his nose in another gesture of irritation. "According to this very definitive work on the subject," he continued as he gestured to the book. "The only one way to be unaffected by this potion is to have a stronger will than the potion has power. In this case, since it is a love potion…it seems that there's already a love in your heart too strong to be overridden by any coercive ingredients in that concoction."
Snape's sardonic explanation had various effects throughout the dungeon classroom. The Slytherins' earlier sniggering rose to a collective chuckle, while the Gryfindoors seemed baffled by the new information. The witch, for her part, felt the color rising in her face but otherwise remained unruffled, still serious as she inquired, "What does that mean, exactly?"
"You're being remarkably more dim-witted than usual today, Miss Granger," the instructor chastised, a smugness in the twitch of his lips which passed for an expression. He crossed his arms and descended the dais, his flowing robes rustling dramatically. When he was once again peering down at the girl, he asked, "I take it that you have fixed your affections on someone…have some secret tendre?" His half-smirk grew into something which passed for a smile as Hermione managed to burn a deeper crimson, the blush which stained her cheeks brilliantly bright against her fair skin. "Perhaps even for someone in this very room?"
Damn him and his maliciousness, she silently cursed as she tried to remain calm, praying that her courage didn't desert her at this stage.
"As I thought," Snape acknowledged, nodding. "Well, I must say that congratulations are in order. For it seems that you've found your soul mate." Again, he spoke of love in the derisive tone which he usually reserved for taunting Harry.
"What!" she couldn't help yelping. Was he actually suggesting that the someone she had that secret….fascination….with was her soul mate?!
"Yes, Miss Granger," he answered, as if he could read her mind although her thoughts were merely written plainly on her honest face. "According to Iskiraat al-kimiya, the only way one can successfully avoid the charms of that love potion is if their heart is too strong and too loyal to the one they love to be persuaded otherwise. A very rare occurrence, to find someone so young and yet so faithful." Hermione fought a scowl at his words, which he emphasized in a infuriatingly patronizing way which made it sound as if she were a dutiful puppy. Ignoring her disapproval, he went on. "I've only seen it once before myself, although it was a Hufflepuff who are pathetically too loyal as a rule and this young woman was also engaged." Snape's dark eyes flashed down at her hands, one which lay on the desk while the other curled around her quill. "I see no ring on your finger."
Any reply she may have made to that comment was cut off as Snape abruptly pulled his attention away from her and directed it to the entire class. "Everyone -- with the notable exception of Miss Granger -- will remain under the potions' effects for another hour or so. Luckily, or perhaps unluckily, this is your last period of the day. Do try and behave yourselves; I know that I'd hate to give any of you detention for impropriety. Dismissed."
As everyone began to move around her, Hermione remained in her seat, her eyes fixed on an invisible point in space. Her mind, as quick and logical as it was, couldn't quite wrap itself around what had come to light in the space of one potions class. Was she really supposed to believe that what she considered to be a school-girl infatuation was actually something deep and eternal? Only if she'd lost her mind, she decided, could that be true.
"Since I doubt that your heart has impaired your hearing, why are you still here?" Snape asked dryly, one eyebrow raised.
Scowling and still fighting a blush, Hermione quickly packed her supplies away in her worn leather bag before slinging it over her shoulder and darting out of the classroom, her head held high, her mind churning.
She didn't see the askance glance the acerbic professor sent her way as she did so, or the puzzled look on his face as he too wondered about the events which had transpired.
Author's notes : The potion ingredients came from a few different places: Ashwinder eggs from Fantastic Beasts; banwort is the archaic Anglo-Saxon word for pansy flowers and I found an old love spell (from a book I purchased at an occult shop) which calls for pansy flowers, fire-ashes and the victim's hair. The name of Snape's alchemical book is Iskiraat al-kimiya, which is in Arabic and should translate into "Alchemy Elixirs." If I have butchered this language, I'm very sorry but I figured fewer of my readers would know Arabic as opposed to Latin which I'm only slightly better with. The term 'tendre' is French, but it was a vogue term in Regency England to refer to someone's love interest. The title of this part is from the Stevie Nicks's song, "The Nightmare." I hope that explains anything which needed so. I'd also like to apologize for any blatant American phrases but I am American and I don't want to offend any British persons by a horrible attempt at "writing British." This is my first Harry Potter fanfiction which is longer than 100 words, so please bear with me. Also, all constructive comments/reviews are welcome. I'm rambling, so I'll stop now.