The pesky Amortentia was at fault, really, Severus Snape reflected many years later. He supposed there had been no way of knowing, then, just what it meant, or even if knowing would have changed any of his actions. He could still remember the first time he'd noticed the change…
It was the summer of 1991, and Snape was practice-brewing all the potions he would be teaching his N.E.W.T. students that year. At first, all he could sense was that something was not quite right. Pausing in his ingredient preparation, he took a deep breath – aha, there it was: the Amortentia smelled different. Striding over to the cauldron, Snape checked the love potion. It was the correct color and consistency, and the smoke was rising in spirals as it should. Mentally reviewing the ingredients he had added, Snape knew it had been brewed correctly. Why, then, did it smell so odd?
For years now, Amortentia had recalled (quite comfortingly to Snape) daisies, powdered root of asphodel, and cinnamon biscuits. The first several times he had brewed it after Lily's death had provided an emotional shock, but over the years Snape had become accustomed to the scent. It was familiar, soothing, consistent; he hardly paid it any attention when his students were brewing. He knew it might seem peculiar, to an outsider, that a love potion reminiscent of Lily Evans would smell like daisies, of all things, but it had been a tiny daisy she had shown Petunia on that fateful day when he had first introduced himself, and told her she was a witch.
The cinnamon biscuits were her favorite treat (often shared with her best friend, Sev), and the asphodel… Well, that one was slightly more complicated, but to Snape, it made a morbid kind of sense. The asphodel flower belonged to the lily family, and its flower language meant 'my regrets follow you to the grave', which Snape had discovered in an old Muggle tome on Victorian flower arrangements. The powdered root of the plant was a common potion ingredient, which was fitting, as Snape and Lily had both excelled at Potions during their schooldays.
Sighing, Snape took another whiff of the strange Amortentia. He detected the dusty smell of old books (Enchanting, he thought sarcastically), roses, and a honey-almond mixture with which he was unfamiliar. Sniffing again, he wondered at the change. There was nothing new or unusual in his life of late – no great love affair nor close friendship nor even a change in attitude.
Just to be quite certain, Snape brewed a fresh batch: it, too, smelled of books, roses and honey-almond. How peculiar, he had thought. And then… he had quite put it out of his mind. It was no matter to him that the scent had changed – it had been nearly ten years since Lily's death, after all. Still, he felt that he would miss the old fragrance that had stuck with him for so many years. Sometimes, he had even foolishly convinced himself that her lingering essence meant he was forgiven.
Maybe it was for the best: though Lily's scent no longer delivered a blow to his senses, he doubted he was strong enough to withstand both her smell and her eyes staring at him – for The Boy Who Lived was now The Boy Who Was Beginning School at Hogwarts, and it was rumored that he possessed Lily Evans' eyes, exactly her eyes. Shaking his head, Snape cleared the two cauldrons and made a note in his potions journal about the change. Then, forgetting it entirely, he had set about brewing the much more complicated Felix Felicis.
Looking back, Snape wished he had paid more attention to the possible reasons behind the change of aroma. Maybe then he would have been prepared… but no, he doubted that he would have believed it, even if he had realized what it meant. Stacking his papers neatly, he stood from his desk and stretched. Grading all these essays on the potent Amortentia had him feeling quite maudlin, indeed.
A/N: Thank you to my fabulous betas: WeasleySeeker, without whom, this would be a disjointed seven-shot instead of the lovely, flowing piece that it is today; and siriusly lupine, who explained many of the formatting intricacies of ffn to me, so that you are able to read this without wanting to poke your eyes out. All of my chapters are named after potions ingredients, usually with a special meaning. This was the very first fanfiction I ever started writing, and it was because I saw an entire category for "Snape/Hermione romances" and wondered how in the hell anyone could think that would be a good idea. So, this was born out of an attempt to rationalize it to myself, and hopefully I have managed to stay as canon-compliant as possible. Anything you recognize is not my own.