Disclaimer: I own nothing. All belongs to Glee writers and creators.
A/N: A Ravenclaw's most sincere apology to a wounded Hufflepuff.
For whatrumorstho on Tumblr. :)
AU: It's in the Harry Potter verse. So. You know.
The Scent of Love
Immediately upon entering the dungeon chamber in which Advanced Potions was held, Rachel became aware of a difference from the last time she had been there almost a week ago.
And no, it wasn't in the lighting. It was just as dim in the dank room as it had been the first time she had wandered into it nearly seven years ago. Her eyes had become much better at adjusting to the low candlelight since then, but it still took a few squints to get her pupils to dilate properly.
The change was not in the humidity of the room, either. No, she felt her long, well-groomed locks start to curl instantly upon meeting the muggy air, coiling up before she even had a chance to wring it up into a proper pony (an incident in third year had been enough to convince her that allowing it freedom during this particular class wasn't the brightest idea a girl could have).
And there most certainly wasn't a change in the general aura of the room created almost entirely, she was sure, by the jars of various oddities lined up all along the walls. As a seventh year, Rachel was far more accustomed to the unpleasant chill that traveled straight up her spine upon seeing them, but once in a while, she would still catch something moving or opening its eyes in one of them and immediately feel squeamish.
One of the downfalls of being a Muggleborn, she supposed. She would likely never get used to some things. Creepy undead things kept in jars of murky liquid were one of them.
Today, however, the finest hairs on Rachel's neck stood on end because of the smell in the room. It was the oddest mixture she'd ever encountered, and that was saying something considering her five long years enrolled in Hagrid's eventful Care of Magical Creatures class. It was pungent, stinging her nostrils and churning her stomach, all at once reminding her of boils, slug slime, and…was that the faintest whiff of…rain?
Her classmates clutched at their stomachs and groaned, some pinching their noses shut to breathe through their mouths, and just as Rachel was about to follow suit, there was a pop and the smell was gone. A collective breath of relief was released. Artie Abrams panted loudest. His face was beet red from holding his breath entirely. His fellow Ravenclaw, Tina Cohen-Chang, patted his shoulder before they went to their seats.
"My apologies, students, forgive me," Professor Belby announced, waving his hands as though to brush away the stench. "I forgot to put the corks back in before you arrived."
He gave a good-natured smile and Rachel smirked to herself as she slid onto a stool, pulling her textbook and a hair tie out before her bag dropped to its place on the floor beside her. She would have shared in her amusement with Mike, the only other Gryffindor in her year who happened to be taking this class, but his stool was irritatingly empty. She made a mental note to lecture him about tardiness later and slid her gaze to the station to her right instead, where Quinn Fabray was in the midst of setting up her lab, a smirk gracing her lips as well.
Rachel had only to wait a moment before the Ravenclaw caught her eye and, upon seeing her smirk mirrored upon the Gryffindor's face, let her expression spread into a gentle grin. The brunette's smile only widened at this, and they both went back to their work with a shared shake of the head.
This wasn't exactly the first time Belby had forgotten to cork a bad-smelling potion (though she did believe it was the first time multiple samples had been neglected). About thirteen years ago, in the Final Battle, the poor man had lost his sense of smell—well, actually, all his senses. After a few months at St. Mungo's, he was able to recover everything but smell, which never returned. It made him an excellent candidate to work with ingredients that didn't exactly smell spectacular, but he also tended to forget about the people who could smell.
While his misfortune wasn't exactly a laugh, everyone was able to share in the amusement with his complete and total nonchalance about it.
"All right, all right. So," Belby began, shifting various tubes and jars and bottles around his desk before settling on a particular set of four. "As you all know, we've been working very steadily toward—ah, good of you to join us, Mr. Chang."
Rachel's eyes narrowed on the sheepish boy slinking toward his seat, and he went pale, mouthing his apologies to her. She rolled her eyes and jerked her quill quite forcefully toward the front of the room when Mike settled his lanky frame awkwardly on top of a stool. He mouthed an 'o' in realization and grinned apologetically at Belby. Giggles floated up from the back of the room at the exchange and, presumably, Mike's behavior, but Rachel chose not to focus her energies on scolding children she had little chance of cornering later on. In the common room, he would have nowhere to run.
"Sorry, Professor. Overslept," was all he said, and Belby just nodded before continuing.
"We will start off today's lesson with preparation for a section of your N.E.W.T.s." Rachel's back straightened and she narrowed her focus on the man at the front of the room. "Now, some of these are restricted substances; however, you'll be expected to recognize them during your examination, so we'll be studying them in detail today." He considered each test tube for a moment before selecting one of two encasing the clearest liquid, chuckling when a few people covered their noses in preparation as he twisted the cork. "Combined, two of these potions can create the smell you were greeted with earlier. However, they are much more subdued alone, and this particular potion has no smell."
The lightbulb went off immediately, and even before Belby had removed the cork entirely, Rachel had her hand in the air. A crooked smile was on his face, but he handed the tube off to the first person in the row nonetheless and called on her.
"Yes, Miss Berry?"
"It's Veritaserum, sir," she supplied confidently, and he beamed.
"Very good, Miss Berry. Five points to Gryffindor. Would you mind sharing with the class how you were able to tell from such a distance?" His eyes twinkled with amusement.
She straightened her shoulders, taking the tube carefully from Quinn when she passed it over, and said, "I suspected at first because Veritaserum is as colourless as water, but you confirmed it, sir, when you mentioned it was odourless."
"Quite right, Miss Berry."
She grinned proudly and passed it off to Mike, who gave her an enthusiastic thumbs-up.
"Now, this next one I expect you all to remember from your sixth year studies."
Rachel eyed the next vial of what appeared to be harmless water, wracking her brain while the faintest of unpleasant smells filled the room when it was uncorked and passed off to Kurt Hummel again. He adjusted his green and silver tie primly and held it as far from his nostrils as possible.
"Ah, Miss Fabray, do you have a guess?"
"Draught of Living Death, sir," she answered quietly, and Rachel fought the urge to smack her own forehead. Of course!
"Very good, five points to Ravenclaw. Your reasoning?" Belby asked, smile still very much in place.
"Its clear colour might have suggested Veritaserum, but I assumed a Potions Master such as yourself would not make the mistake of placing the same vial on the rack twice," Quinn said simply, a smirk dancing across her pink lips.
Rachel couldn't help but admire her tactful way of sidestepping the smell issue.
"Ah, but I could have been trying to trick you," Belby pointed out playfully.
Quinn considered this and offered a shrug, passing the tube to Rachel. "Fair enough. It also smells bloody awful."
Giggles again filled the morbid atmosphere, even Belby threw in a laugh, and Rachel muffled a snicker with her hand. Quinn shot her a small smile.
"All right, and this one, used extensively during the days of the Final Battle, now much more restricted by Ministry policy." He lifted it in the air without uncorking it just yet, smiling in amusement when no hands were raised. "I'll give you a hint—the last ingredient has not yet been added."
Rachel's hand raised and in her peripheral vision she saw Quinn have a similar 'ah' moment before hers did as well, but Kurt's hand caught Belby's attention first.
"It's Polyjuice Potion," Kurt said, casually directing a stray hair into a position more to his tastes. "And before you ask, I could tell because it looks like a slug rolling around in mud in there." He gave a shudder of repulsion.
Belby just chuckled and handed him the vial. "Five points to Slytherin, and just don't open it until the Draught of Living Death has been corked again, unless you all would like a repeat of earlier."
There were instant negative reactions that Rachel didn't hesitate to add to, only waving him off when Mike gave her a questioning look. Belby chuckled and stepped back to his desk to grab the last tube filled with a liquid pearl substance. His smile was large and mischievous when he turned about this time, uncorking it with ease.
"Can anyone tell me what—Miss Fabray, so soon?"
Quinn merely nodded, pale cheeks a faint shade of pink when she answered almost bashfully, "Amortentia. It has a mother-of-pearl shine, and the steam always rises in spirals. It also has a distinctive smell to each individual person and what attracts them."
"Very good, Miss Fabray. Ten points to Ravenclaw," Belby said, handing off the tube to Kurt and taking the Draught of Living Death back.
Rachel looked on with curiosity as Kurt took a sniff. His baby doll skin went rosy all the way to his ears and his eyes wide with evident surprise, and he quickly passed the vial off to Quinn, who eyed the tube critically for just a moment before taking a more conservative whiff. The flush already present in her porcelain cheeks intensified and a heavenly smile spread her pink lips wide, and Rachel couldn't help but think the stoic Ravenclaw should always wear such a dreamy, lovesick expression. She looked most beautiful.
Quinn shook it off with ease, not looking nearly as surprised or disconcerted by her findings as Kurt had been, and offered a pinched smile to Rachel as she handed it over. She took the tube carefully, watching the steam rise in a twisted pattern from the swirling liquid inside for just a moment—to brace herself—before she pressed the vial just under her nose and sucked in a breath.
This was…this was heavenly. It was delectable. And delicious. And delightful.
Rachel felt herself smiling, but she was only vaguely aware of it beyond the heaving of her chest and the warmth in her cheeks that had spread up from her neck and that smell. Of rain on a hot summer day, a new sheaf of sheet music, fresh strawberries, and this salty yet sweet tang that tickled her nose and sent tingles up her arms and shivers down her spine. Once again, the fine hairs on the back of her neck pricked up, but this time with an electric pleasure she simply could not get enough of.
Her eyelids drooped and her posture slid into a lax pose, even as she passed the tube idly off to a disconcerted Mike and leaned an elbow on her table, smile still firmly in place.
Merlin. No wonder that was the most powerful love potion in the world.
Rachel spent the rest of Potions class in somewhat of a daze (though fortunately she managed to maintain her record of straight O's despite this hindrance to her usually astounding focus) that was only snapped afterward on the walk to Charms. While Mike would usually be raving about the newest wizard chess tournament outcomes, today his topic of conversation revolved almost entirely around the fact that the Amortentia had smelled almost exactly like Tina. Well, besides the added bonus of the scent of broomsticks.
And while Rachel didn't really see the appeal of this, she was still a bit disturbed by the information for some reason. She couldn't quite figure it out. She harbored an attraction to neither Mike nor Tina (besides, she had Finn Hudson), and she had long since learned to tolerate boys' inexplicable love for all things Quidditch.
Rather than dwell, however, she brushed it off in favor of throwing her all into her favorite class, and the irritation was forgotten.
Immediately following Charms was lunch in the Great Hall, where she and Mike reprised Noah Puckerman of the events of Potions class, and he proceeded to mumble that he needed to get some of his hands on that stuff. Evidently, none of his charms (including the magical ones he'd picked up over the years) were having any effect on his attempts to woo Miss Lauren Zizes. Rachel yet again assured him that persistence was the way to win a potential romantic partner, while Mike suggested bargaining with her. If Gryffindor won the next Quidditch bout, then she would go on a date with him.
Before Rachel could dissuade Noah from this notion on the grounds that (a) forcing someone into a romantic situation never ended well—she would know—and (b) Gryffindor's next match was against Ravenclaw, whose captain and Seeker happened to be Quinn Fabray, so the plan was doomed to failure anyway, Finn made his presence known and soon the two of them were wrapped up in one another in the mainly empty stairwell on the way up to the Astronomy Tower.
Rachel tugged at his yellow and black tie to urge the boy to bend a little farther to accommodate her height as he pressed her into the stone wall and finagled his tongue into her mouth. One of the few annoyances she had in her relationship with the Hufflepuff was exactly this: his inconsiderate nature concerning her short stature. He personally was quite the giant, but he seemed to think that as long as she stood on her tiptoes then all would be well. Not so.
In fact, she had initially started using the stairwells as locations for snogging to make up a little bit of the height difference, but Finn never seemed to take the hint, always squirming and moving until he could have her pressed right up against him. It wasn't that she minded the closeness, of course (except when he had just come from Quidditch practice and not only smelled absolutely atrocious, but his skin was sticky to the touch), but her ankles and toes were not always going to put up with this amount of strain for such long periods of time.
Finn had taken the tug to his tie as a signal to move away from her mouth, however, and soon his teeth and five o'clock shadow were scraping against her cheek and jaw on the journey down to her neck. Well, at least he was bending over farther.
She heaved a sigh and hooked her arms over his shoulders, enjoying the admittedly clumsy attention he briefly gave to her ear before she realized that something was wrong. She sniffed once, twice, and wrinkled her nose, easing backward and pushing at his shoulders until he took the hint and backed away, adorably confused.
"All right?" he asked, stroking her hair away from her face with his big fingers.
Why did he suddenly seem so unbearably large?
She shook herself. "Why…do you smell like roasted stoat?"
Finn's eyebrows came together, practically forming one, before he sniffed himself and realization crashed over. "Oh! Yeah, I was at Hagrid's for lunch. I was trying to make up for, you know, squashing his billywig by accident," he explained sheepishly, scratching the back of his neck.
Rachel's attention strayed halfway through his explanation, a frown quickly bending the corners of her mouth down with her displeasure at the return of her irritation from earlier. Tina smelled almost exactly like Mike's Amortentia scent, he'd said. She subtly took another whiff of Finn, but all she could smell was roasted stoat, dirt (he'd had Herbology that morning), and potatoes. Nothing like the heavenly whiff of Amortentia she'd breathed in earlier at all.
Her brow was the one knitting now and she pursed her lips, pushing past a dumbfounded Finn to rush down the stairs. She needed time and space to properly think this revelation through.
"I can brush my teeth if…you want."
Rachel was still in a haze of general irritation later that afternoon, awaiting Quinn's arrival in the library for their collective project. It wasn't often that she and Quinn voluntarily worked together—not to say that they actively avoided each other as much as they once had—and it wasn't really the case now, she supposed. They were two out of only ten students who had chosen to remain in Hagrid's Care of Magical Creatures class all five years, and when it came to partner projects, they were also the odd men out.
Santana Lopez's entire purpose for joining and remaining in the class was one Brittany Pierce, and even before it became public knowledge that the two were more than close friends it was next to impossible to find the Slytherin without the Hufflepuff. There was no coming between the two as partners; that was for sure. Mike and Tina were similarly attached, despite his loyalty to Rachel, and Sam Evans and Mercedes Jones, she suspected, were also engaging in some sort of courtship. Finn claimed the class afforded him his only 'bro' time with Noah and, with no desire to be viewed as the clingy type, Rachel allowed it. Which, of course, left only herself and Quinn.
Quinn was actually quite the proficient partner and pleasant, too, once they had dispelled all the misnomers Santana had labeled Rachel with and the somewhat nasty rumors about Quinn's unpleasant nature that floated around the school. It had taken quite the argument to get them to drop the facades and simply work as Quinn and Rachel, but the end result had been worth it, in the Gryffindor's humble opinion. Quinn was intelligent (obviously) and witty (there were times when Rachel would literally burst into laughter while thinking of something she had said, startling the quiet atmosphere of the common room and drawing a few disturbed looks) and occasionally sweet (she had taken to buying Rachel a deluxe box of almond chocolates from Honeydukes each holiday, and while she couldn't afford anything so extravagant without the advantages of old Pureblood money, Rachel did her best to buy Quinn something in return and the Ravenclaw always thanked her and fawned over the gifts with delight) and breathtakingly beautiful (just wow) and punctual. Except, of course, for today.
This wasn't what had Rachel in a state of irritation, however. No, her mind was still stuck on what she had discovered earlier. What could it mean? Did it mean anything at all? Why wasn't she attracted to Finn's scent? Or perhaps she was. Perhaps there were too many other scents clogging up his own natural scent and later, after he had bathed (thoroughly, she hoped), he would smell like—
"Sorry I'm late. Practice ran over," a voice interrupted, and Rachel absently offered Quinn a nod as she heard her sit down, catching her breath. She was a bit busy watching the feathers of her quill sweep back and forth across the worn wood of the table she was seated at, and hadn't entirely registered her arrival. It was only when the blonde tilted forward, nudging her elbow with a soft, "Hey, all right?" that she came out of it.
Rachel glanced over and smiled sheepishly, her quill coming to rest on the parchment she'd begun writing notes on, freeing her hand to cover her face in embarrassment. She didn't doubt Quinn's words one bit—she was sweaty and flushed and panting and her hair was a bit flyaway, clothes rumpled from what Rachel assumed was a hasty change. And she still looked flawless.
The Gryffindor shook her head, still hiding away. "Fine, of course. I'm fine. Uh…I gathered these—"
"Berry," Quinn said sternly, her harsh expression only belied by the sparkling of her hazel eyes. "What's wrong?"
Rachel felt herself blush inexplicably, but shook her head. "I wouldn't want to bother you—"
Quinn promptly scooted her chair closer and leaned on her elbow, as if getting comfortable, and said only, "Well, you won't be able to focus until you get it off your chest, either, and I'd rather not work with you at half-capacity."
She shot her an indignant look, to which the blonde merely grinned and waited, nodding for her to spill whatever it was. Rachel almost kicked herself when she felt the last of her hesitation slip away upon meeting Quinn's eyes.
"All right, you know that we were all able to discover the individual scents we each receive from Amortentia in Potions today," she began, and Quinn nodded, brow quirking. Rachel felt herself flush, as always, and trained her gaze on the parchment she was fiddling with. "Well, this afternoon, I was spending time with Finn when I discovered that he smells nothing like any of the scents I smell in Amortentia, which might not have bothered me, except that Mike told me shortly after class that his smells almost exactly like Tina and…well, it makes sense, because it is the most powerful love potion in the world and it obviously knows what scents attract and arouse the person most, but why doesn't it smell like Finn then? Unless I'm not nasally attracted to him, but if this is true love like I had hoped, then wouldn't I be attracted to him in every fashion? Or shouldn't I be? And not that we've come that far in our relationship, but in intimate moments, what if it bothers me that he doesn't exactly smell as I would like him to? What if it repulses me so much that I can't go through with it? Or what if from now on, when I'm with him, I can't stop thinking about the fact that when I snuggle close to him the only thing I'm enjoying is the warmth and safety he provides, and not his particular musk as well? What if—"
Quinn had been listening to all this with only a smirk and a sparkle in her eyes thus far, but seeing Rachel getting particularly worked up, gesticulating rapidly and cheeks going red with exertion, she finally reached forward to clasp a gentle hand over her arm, giving a squeeze when a simple, "Hey" failed to capture her attention.
Rachel bit her lip at the second prompt and turned mournful eyes on the amused Ravenclaw, who paused and took a breath, as if she had been the one spewing such a lengthy speech.
"Don't worry about what you smell in some potion, Rachel," she said at last, sighing. "You love who you love, and when you love someone, you love everything about them." A small smile quirked her lips, accompanied by a shrug as she removed her hand from Rachel's arm. "So it won't matter if Finn's smell isn't what you're most attracted to if Finn is who you love most."
Rachel stared at Quinn, breathless and completely captivated. It was a simple three sentences, but somehow they seemed so intimate. They drove straight through her and she was caught.
After a moment of wordlessly gazing at one another, however, Quinn grew restless and a playful smirk danced across her expression.
"Now, if we're done with that, let's get on with our work, okay?" she asked, propping herself back up.
Rachel cleared her throat, blushing and smiling bashfully yet again. "Okay."
"Good. We don't want Eggmund suffering because one of his mums has romantic troubles," Quinn said, so seriously the Gryffindor burst into laughter.
"Wait, does this mean I've been cheating on you?" she asked, enjoying the way the Ravenclaw's brow immediately lifted with delight.
"Oh, of course not. We're separated, obviously," she replied, digging her own supplies from her bag.
Rachel mock-gasped. "What will we tell Eggmund?"
"The truth," Quinn said, feigning distress. "And we'll just have to hope that maybe one day…he'll understand."
Rachel covered her mouth to muffle the gales of laughter wracking her body, so as not to attract attention from Pince, completely delighted and cheered, irritation forgotten with Quinn's sparkling eyes. It was only when the Ravenclaw winked and leaned over her to snatch up a book on her other side that the Gryffindor's breath caught and her laughter halted as she caught a whiff of Quinn.
Her blonde hair fell short of her shoulders, but briefly curtained off Rachel's face from the rest of the world and she smelled the scrumptious scent of strawberries. And as Quinn receded, under the arc of her arm, Rachel couldn't help but catch the scent of her sweat—salty, sweet, and tangy…and it tickled her nose.
She could do nothing but let her jaw drop.