Title: The Potions Project
Author name: Airiviel
Author email: airiviel (at) gmail (dot) com
Author's fanfiction or fanart homepage URL: www.airiviel.tk
Category: Romance
Keywords: Harry, Hermione, Potions, Callaghan
Pairing: H/Hr
Rating: PG-13
Spoilers: All five books.
Summary: A guest speaker comes to work with advanced potions students on a two-week project.
DISCLAIMER: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. Other citations shall be made where necessary.

The Potions Project

"A guest speaker shall be coming in next week," Snape announced one afternoon during Potions. "This is a great honor," he said, although he looked as if he completely disagreed with the statement, "for our guest will be giving a small Potions workshop to the more advanced-level students."

A buzz filled the room as students murmured amongst themselves. A few whispered things along the lines of "let's hope he's better than Snape" or "A workshop? What, do they think we're seven years old?" Harry raised his eyebrows at Hermione, who merely shrugged. Malfoy, who was sitting on the opposite side of the room, rolled his eyes and elbowed his friends, muttering something into their ears. Class ended, and the students impatiently filed out of the room, hurrying to get to lunch.

"Good afternoon, students!" It was the guest speaker. "I am Lillabello Callaghan." He was a short little fellow, with stubby hands and dimples that emphasized his warm smile. His hair, strangely, was bright red on one side and dark brown, almost black, on the other.

"His name and his hair make it seem like he's literally half Italian and half Irish," Harry muttered to Hermione, grinning.

"Shh." She threw him a reproachful look. Then, after a moment, she couldn't resist saying, "Lillabello doesn't really sound Italian, anyway."

Harry grinned a little and turned back to his doodles.

"…I'm very excited to be working with such young and fine potion students," Callaghan was saying. "In the next two weeks, you will be working on a very special project. You will have no homework in this class, apart from this assignment." Snape fumed at these words. Callaghan politely ignored the glare. "Harry Potter," he said loudly.

Harry looked up in surprise. "Er, that's me."

Callaghan smiled. "Don't be so shocked. Any proper wizard would know your name and face. Please come up here."

Harry pushed his chair back and stood up hesitantly, and made his to the front of the room.

"Take these," Callaghan said, handing him a bag filled with rolls of parchment, "and give one scroll to every student."

"Okay," Harry said, and took the bag. He moved slowly down the aisles, passing a scroll to everyone.

"I don't want what you've touched, Potter," Malfoy said, sneering at him when Harry tried to hand him a scroll.

He shrugged. "Suit yourself," he said, and gave the scroll to Blaise.

"Excuse me, Mr. Malfoy," Callaghan said with a distasteful look. He'd overheard the exchange. "You'll be needing one of those."

Harry wordlessly pulled a new scroll from the bag. Malfoy snatched it out of his hands and slumped in his seat angrily.

When Harry had passed the last scroll to Hermione, the bag turned to dust and then vanished in midair. He was a little bit startled by it, and Callaghan chuckled. Harry returned to his seat and unfurled his own scroll.

ADDRESSED TO ADVANCED POTIONS STUDENTS:

During the next fortnight, you are to choose one person who, in your eyes, is the most admirable person you know. You are to carefully record what you believe is the main contributor to this person's character, and make observations. When you have discovered this trait and its nature, you must research to create your own potion that will give the consumer the key characteristic of the person you admire. Your final result will include six standard vials of this potion, a detailed recipe for it, and all records and observations made. You must also write a ten inch explanation of this person and why the trait you chose is unique to him or her.

Any of the traits listed below are forbidden to be used as the essence of your potion:

Ability to perform Dark Spells or anything to do with the Dark Arts

Age

Amount of Knowledge

Appearance

Physical ability (i.e. muscle strength)

Final results will be judged by six wizards and/or witches, and the best potion will determine the winner, who will be awarded five thousand galleons, and will be offered an apprenticeship under the main Potions Master at St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries.

"Ooh," Hermione exclaimed excitedly. "I already have an idea!"

Chatter filled the room as students finished reading the scroll. Harry heard someone in the back of the room say, "This is lame." Another student agreed, "This is an assignment for a ten-year-old. Why do we have to do this?"

"Everyone knows Potter's gonna win," Malfoy said obnoxiously. "He's the favorite again, and he's already famous, so why not?" He tossed his scroll aside. "There's no point in working hard on this."

"I assure you, Mr. Malfoy," Callaghan retorted coldly, "This will be quite fair."

"That's what they all say," Malfoy jeered.

"Who wants an apprenticeship under the main Potions Master at St. Mungo's? It's probably someone as bad as Snape." Ron had just read the parchment. "I'm glad I don't have to do this."

Harry shrugged. "At least there's none of Snape's homework for two weeks."

"I'm rather excited about this, actually," Hermione said. "Have you decided who you're going to do, yet?"

"Dumbledore," Harry replied quickly, relieved that he'd been given a chance to state it out loud. He didn't want her to use the same person. "What about you?"

"I'm…not too sure," Hermione replied vaguely.

"I think it would be fun to win, even if I don't need the money," Harry said.

Hermione glanced at him sideways. "Yes, it would be."

She quickly finished her food and rushed out of the Great Hall with a "see you guys later, I have some work to do!"

Harry spent the greater part of the following days in the library, reading texts that described Dumbledore. He was surprised to find that Hermione had not be frequenting the library so much, even when she usually visited on a daily basis. At the moment, he was having difficulty determining which of Dumbledore's characteristics was the most important. The headmaster was very wise…but would that count as "amount of knowledge"? But wisdom was something that had to come naturally…

He often remembered Hermione's sideways glance. It made him uncomfortably bitter. He hated competing against his best friend, but he desperately wanted to win. He wasn't sure why. He just knew that he wanted to be the apprentice. He wanted to have the recognition. He wanted to buy Ron something like a new broom for Christmas, and get Hermione an expensive ancient runes volume that was no longer being distributed and could only be purchased now for a ridiculous sum. He wanted Hermione to be delighted with his present…he wanted to beat Ron again at buying her the perfect gift. Even if he was very well off money-wise, he still couldn't afford be so extravagant. Five thousand galleons would be very helpful.

He wasn't sure what made him so anxious to win Hermione's approval. It seemed so trivial, and yet…it was very important to him. He felt a spark of triumph every time Hermione beamed at him and forgot about Ron, or every time Hermione displayed an enthusiastic appreciation for his gifts to her and an obvious dislike for the gifts she received from Ron.

He considered that perhaps he wanted to win this so very badly because it would impress her. Yes…she would definitely be impressed if he won for having the best project in the class he was usually worst at. But why, he wondered again, did he feel such a need to impress her?

Occasionally, Harry wondered if Malfoy was right. Would he win? Merely because he was Harry Potter? Or because Callaghan obviously liked him? Even though he wanted to win, he still wanted the competition to be fair.

At last he settled on Dumbledore's wisdom as the trait he would focus on. His potion, he decided, would give its consumer wisdom – the ability to think very clearly and intellectually – for two hours.

He worked hard and spent many hours alone, concocting various recipes that were built on focusing charms and prudence spells. Harry no longer saw as much of Hermione and Ron, and he put from his mind the bitterness of the competition between him and Hermione. She wanted to win, too, but he would beat her. He wanted to…he needed to.

Harry wasn't sure what drove him to such an obsession with the potions project when he usually hated the class. He laid aside most of his other homework and focused on perfecting his potions. He tested them on himself, in very mild doses, and ultimately came across one that he believed was the perfect brew.

Finally, he turned in his six vials of potion and his carefully written notes. In three days, the winner would be announced.

At long last, the final day had come. This was Callaghan's last day at Hogwarts, and it was the day that the winner of the potions project would be announced.

"In the next few minutes," Callaghan said, "I shall announce the winner. This student will then step up to the front of the classroom and give a small presentation of the potion, the chosen characteristic, and the observations recorded."

"We already know it's Potter," Malfoy drawled, sneering. "Just announce it and get it over with. He's got enough glory – just look at the size of his head."

Callaghan smiled. "Quite the contrary, Mr. Malfoy. The winner…" He paused for effect. "Is Miss Hermione Granger."

Harry felt disappointed as he clapped with the rest of the class for Hermione, who stood up, blushing. She walked up to the front of the classroom and cleared her throat.

"The person I admire the most," she said, blushing even harder and practically squeaking, "is Harry Potter."

Harry looked up, stunned.

"The trait…" She cleared her throat and continued more firmly, "The trait that I determined to be most important…is his courage." She seemed to have gotten hold of her voice, and now spoke very loudly, with a sure tone. "For as long as I have known him, every act he has done, he has committed himself to with courage. But I decided not to make my potion based on his courage, but instead, based on what his courage came from." She turned to look straight into his eyes, and without blinking she said, "And that would be love."

"HAH," Malfoy interjected, "you made a love potion?"

"It's not a potion for induced love, Malfoy," Hermione retorted. "It's a potion that allows one to realize who or what they love, and gives its consumer the strength and courage to use this love. Harry has a love for his friends, and for life…it's a love so powerful that it gives him courage to do what he believes he has to do."

"Can we cut the sap already?" Malfoy interrupted again, rolling his eyes haughtily.

Hermione's eyes flared. "I wouldn't be so quick to interrupt this speech, Malfoy, if I were such a coward as you."

"The potion that Miss Granger created," Callaghan said hastily to bring the class's attention back to the project, "has been tested by six judges and determined to be most effective. However, points were not awarded for only the potion, as many of you made fantastic brews. A large half of the points were given to the person who chose the most virtuous trait. Within the next two days you will be contacted by owl concerning your prize, Miss Granger." Callaghan smiled.

"H-Hermione," Harry stuttered after class as they walked to the Great Hall for lunch. "I didn't realize—"

She smiled at him. "I didn't mean to embarrass you, Harry."

"No! You didn't! I mean…" He blushed. "I was so caught up in competing against you for this that I didn't really think."

"It's all right, Harry."

"I, er, I didn't know you admired me so much," he managed to stammer.

"No?"

"If anything," he said, blushing again, "I should admire you."

She laughed a little. "Don't you remember when I told you that friendship and bravery were more important than books and cleverness?"

"Hermione…" He stopped to look at her. "That was first year. You still remember that?"

"Of course I do, Harry," she said, her voice suddenly quiet. "That was when I realized…"

"Realized what?"

She looked down. "That was when I realized that…perhaps someday…I could fall in love with you."

He stared at her. For some reason, he couldn't hear anything else but Hermione and his own heart beating hard in his ears. Love. Could that be…what he was feeling? Could that be the reason why he so desperately wished to impress Hermione? Perhaps…yes. He was almost positive now. As the thought passed through his mind, a warmth swept over him and he was suddenly aware of a passionate feeling that had already been existing within him for quite some time. Students flocked past them and his ears blocked out their chatter. After a moment, he said, his voice barely above a whisper, "And, now, do you? I mean, have you...do you think you've...fallen…in love?"

Hermione nodded.

"Hermione…" he said. "I think…" He paused to allow the warmth to wash over him again. He smiled tentatively. "I think I love you, too."

She grinned at him. "So eloquent, Harry, as always."

He didn't have time to think of answer, because she was already standing on the tips of her toes and kissing him on the lips. He felt his arms automatically move to pull her closer to him. Her books fell out of her arms but she didn't seem to notice.

"No kissing in the corridors!"

They pulled apart and turned to see Callaghan standing near them, at the other end of the corridor, his eyes twinkling.

Harry turned to kiss Hermione again. Today, he mused, is a very, very good day.

Sometimes losing was better than winning.

Fin.