Hermione stood in the doorway of the second floor girls' bathroom and frowned. It was a wonder the girl hadn't blown herself up before now. As she watched Ginny liberally sprinkle powdered hellebore and moonstone into a cauldron set up on the floor, Hermione began to question just how little Molly had bothered telling her daughter.
Ginny had spent years trying to get Harry's attention the hard way—everything from sending him hideous singing telegrams to publicly shoving her tongue in his roommate's mouth, hoping to inspire jealousy—and had ended up with nothing more than a passing glance whenever she cracked a crass comment in his presence. Now, it seemed, she was finally getting to her mother's specialty—love potions. And she was doing it wrong. If she tried to give Harry that concoction, it was likely to kill him. Or worse, have him fall in love with Romilda Vane or someone equally wretched. Hermione could not let that happen.
"Need some help?"
Ginny jumped as the other girl spoke, spilling three times as many Ashwinder eggs as she needed into the bubbling mess in front of her.
"What? No." She leaned forward, trying—and failing—the use her body to hide what she was doing. "I've got everything under control."
"No, you're doing it wrong," Hermione said. "You didn't stir after you added the powdered doxy eggs and," she leaned over to peek into the cauldron, "you've got enough asphodel to put someone into a coma."
"What's a coma?"
"Never mind," Hermione responded with a sigh. "Move over." She kneeled next to the cauldron. With one wave of her wand, she cleared the contents and replaced the failed potion with water.
"I don't need your help," Ginny said firmly. She leaned to the side and began playing with a lock of her hair. "Believe it or not, there is one Gryffindor who doesn't need you to do their homework for them."
"If you expect me to believe Professor Slughorn's assigning his classes love potions as homework, you're not as smart as I thought," Hermione said as she measured out scurvy-grass. She looked up. Ginny had composed her face into a stiff mask, not even bothering to deny the accusation.
"So, is this for Harry?"
"Why?" Ginny responded quickly. "Aren't you still attacking Ron? Or have you moved on from that since he's got Lavender now? I'll tell you one thing, if you think you're going to steal Harry from—"
"From whom?" Hermione asked coolly. She picked out the next ingredient from Ginny's hastily packed box and began to stir the contents of the cauldron slowly. "Last I remember, you were bragging about cornering Dean in the broom closet off the Entrance Hall. You did a fair job of convincing him detention with McGonagall would be worth an hour in there with you, didn't you?"
"I…well…" The redhead blushed as she remembered how they'd spent the afternoon. "It's not that serious between us."
"Clearly," Hermione responded. She added dandelion root to the cauldron and continued to stir. "So you've finally set your sights on Harry? Or should I say, again?"
"You make it sound like I've been waiting to be with him," Ginny said.
Hermione had thought no such thing. She just believed that letting any half decent looking boy in Hogwarts do anything but that one thing did not really count as saving oneself. Of course, it was possible Ginny had finally learned the spell to restore her virginity. No, the last thing Hermione would ever say is that Ginny had been waiting for Harry.
"I just wonder if you're ready to be with Harry," Hermione said. "He's quite a bit more intense now than when you first began to like him."
"We were both children then," Ginny said. "I know enough now that I can get his attention and keep it. As long as I want it."
Hermione turned away briefly and pretended to cough in an effort to hide her grin. If this girl thought a love potion a first year could make was enough to make Harry forget his aversion to girls with hero complexes, she really had a lot to learn. Reaching over, Hermione plucked a handful of hairs from Ginny's head. A small smile lifted the corners of her mouth as the girl called out in pain.
"What was that for?"
"To make sure no one can alter this potion for themselves once it's finished," Hermione said. She added the hairs to the potion and looked back at Ginny. "You do plan on keeping it in your dorm? I know at least one of your roommates likes Harry as well."
"It won't be in my dorm long enough for anyone to think of using it," Ginny said. "I plan to give it to him all at once."
Ah, Hermione thought. She had tried this before. That would explain why Harry had mumbled something about a monster in his chest and had walked around Hogsmeade in a near-daze for a few hours on another day. Ginny had come near their table in the Three Broomsticks for a second—probably to switch out Harry's drink. Hermione now regretted not checking the girl's pockets the minute they'd left Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes that summer—of course, she'd had quite a bit to distract her that day. Still, even she would have assumed the girl would have at least read the instructions on the box before attempting to use it.
"You're better off giving it to him in small doses," Hermione said as she searched for the next ingredient. "In candy or something else that he'll ingest over time. Not only will the effects last longer, he'll mistake them for genuine feelings if they're subtle. That way, you can stop using it at some point."
"Won't he forget me if it's not strong enough?" Ginny asked.
Hermione heard the fear in the girl's voice and looked up, amused. There was something she feared. The rejection of the one boy in Hogwarts who hadn't become enamored with her the minute she'd hit puberty. Assuming they hadn't all been given liberal doses of Ginny's special brew. By the looks of what Ginny had been boiling earlier, Hermione doubted she'd ever attempted to make a love potion before.
"He won't forget, exactly," Hermione assured her. "His feelings just won't be in the forefront of his mind. It's not really an issue." Unless another girl interfered before he could be dosed again. Hermione thought of Lavender throwing herself at Ron after the Quidditch match and fought down the urge the make the girl's hair fall out. She'd have to do something worse to her—like make her fall in love with Filch. At the thought of getting close enough to him to pluck a hair, Hermione fought down her nausea and continued with her explanation.
"The most effective way to administer any love potion is in small doses, particularly if the boy in question has never shown any significant interest," Hermione said, quoting something she'd read verbatim. "When the potion wears off and is ingested again, he'll assume his back and forth feelings are just confusion about a girl he's never found himself attracted to before. For boys our age, it's perfectly natural to be confused just before their feelings are cemented. If you do it correctly, he'll never know the difference."
Giving the cauldron one last stir, Hermione put out the flame beneath the potion with a puff of air from her wand. "It needs to sit for at least a day before you use it," she advised.
"Great," Ginny said. She screwed up her mouth, obviously struggling with her next statement. "Thanks." Reaching into the pocket of her robe, she pulled out several scrawled pages of parchment and began to flip through them.
"What's that?" Hermione asked.
"More love potions," Ginny responded. She reached into the box on the floor and began to pull out ingredients.
Hermione gasped. "How many do you plan to give him?"
The younger girl smiled. "As many as it takes."
Several hours later, the two girls sat on the bathroom floor, vials containing a dozen different potions sitting around them. Hermione was torn between laughing hysterically and telling Ginny her fee, before she remembered that she was supposed to be condemning this sort of thing, not admitting how much she charged Fred and George to sell her concoctions. It was too late to pretend she was against it. Especially since she'd made each potion without having to refer to Ginny's notes. Lucky for Hermione, the other girl hadn't asked for an explanation about that.
"Remember," Hermione said. "Wait until you've been together for a few months to give him this one," she said, pointing to the dark blue brew. "If he starts dreaming of your children together not too long after your first kiss, he'll think he's gone mad."
"Hermione, how did you learn all this?" Ginny asked.
The other girl smiled, thinking of the letter and box of ingredients she'd gotten from Molly Weasley over Christmas break her fifth year. Some things were far more effective in welcoming someone to the family than a sweater. "It was easy, Gin. I just learned from the best how to plan for my future."