The eighteen of us continuing on in Advanced Potions—Millicent, Pansy, and Neville having dropped the course—milled about, unsure how Professor Imohera would want us to sit. A loud door slam made us all jump and we turned towards the entrance to the Potion professor’s office.
A tall, broad-shouldered man with tanned skin, dark hair and strikingly blue eyes stood in front of the table at the head of the class. His robes were a deep plum color and looked extremely well made from my view towards the back of the classroom.
He beckoned us forward with a bright smile. We shuffled forward, still standing in a giant clump between tables. “Hello, everyone. My name is Isaac Imohera, and I’m your new Potions professor. Now, I’m not from around these parts, as you can probably tell from my accent,” he said, his heavy Italian accent now apparent.
“I’m originally from Scotland, but my family moved to Italy when I was a baby, and I’ve been there ever since, working with some of the best potioneers in the world. This past July I was approached by Headmistress McGonagall to teach potions to teenagers at this fine institution,” he casually sat on the tabletop, swinging his legs back and forth like a child. “I agreed immediately because it’s always been a dream of mine to share my knowledge with other people. It seems that today, you are those people.”
Professor Imohera jumped down from the table and turned around, his robes flaring out majestically. He flicked his wand at the chalkboard, and names began appearing in white chalk, written in two columns. “I’ve assigned you partners based on your previous achievements in this class, and as per the Headmistress’s request, everyone is paired with someone from a different House than their own. These partner-ings are non-negotiable except on the terms that they are physically trying to kill you.”
This statement made a few of my peers and I snicker at the absurdity of the idea. I could tell I was going to enjoy having him as a professor already. However, as I read the list of pairs looking for my name, my happiness deflated immediately. I was not going to enjoy having Malfoy as my partner for the whole year, considering how much time I was already forced to spend with him, not to mention living with him. I continued looking down the list to see whom Harry and Ron would end up with. Harry got paired with Anthony Goldstein, probably due to his astronomically good sixth year thanks to Snape’s book, and Ron got Susan Bones, who, ironically, were the only gingers in the class.
Quickly, we filtered out into our pairs, some more slowly than others, claiming benches by throwing our bags at the stools. “Now that that’s settled, here’s the deal. All of you are here for a reason, whether that be for Auror training, Healer training, or you just love or excel at Potions, and I’m here to make sure you can do your jobs well come next year. Professor McGonagall wishes that I do my best to prepare you for the future, and I’m hoping to do just that,” Professor Imohera continued after we’d all settled in.
“Because we only meet once a week for double the usual time and once otherwise, this class will be extremely streamlined and focus on major potions that have been used as both defensive and offensive ploys in wars past. We’re going to begin with the topic most teenagers enjoy getting messed up with—love,” he said, grinning. “I do believe Professor Slughorn taught you a little about the strongest love potion known to wizards to this day, but the name of it seems to have slipped my mind. Anyone remember what it is?”
My hand shot up into the air immediately, just like in first year. He pointed at me and said questioningly, “Miss…?”
“Granger, sir,” I supplied. “The strongest love potion in the world is said to be Amortentia. It smells differently to each person according to what attracts them.”
“Very good, Miss Granger, five points to Gryffindor,” he said approvingly. He swished his wand and a cupboard opened up to reveal our cauldrons, which were now floating towards us. “Today, you will begin brewing your own batches of Amortentia for use by the Ministry and St. Mungos. Throughout this process, you will note every minute detail about your potion, and why it may be stronger or weaker than a typical batch like the one I’ve got stored for comparison. You and your partner will be sharing a cauldron, so if it blows up,” at this, we all gave pointed looks at Seamus, “you can start over with your partner’s cauldron. Savvy?”
We all nodded vigorously, excited to start brewing something more advanced. “Excellent. Your time starts now,” he said with a flourish. The rest of my classmates scrambled towards the cabinet containing our cauldrons, but Malfoy and I went straight to the ingredients shelves instead.
“Don’t forget the Ashwinder eggs,” I called over my shoulder as I returned to our bench, carefully juggling all of the ingredients I’d managed to fit in my arms. I set them all down in a group towards the front of the tabletop and then went to grab my cauldron now that the rest of the class were going to the ingredients shelves. I lugged my pewter cauldron over to our table, only to look up and see Malfoy with a look of disgust on his face. “What now, Malfoy?” I asked, annoyed.
“That won’t do. We’ll use my cauldron. It’s much better suited for complicated potions like this,” he said arrogantly, pulling my cauldron out of my arms and placing it back on the shelf. I watched as he grabbed a very similar looking cauldron from the bottom shelf and sauntered back over to me, setting it on the table with a soft thump.
“What’s so special about this, is it a gold cauldron that you painted black to fit in?” I antagonized, unsure why I was being so rude to him today.
“It’s not gold, Granger. That’s ridiculous. It’s bronze,” he said straight-faced. “Come on, let’s get this bloody love potion started.” Malfoy opened up his book to the correct page, lit the fire underneath the cauldron, and began dropping things into the cauldron. He looked over at me and said, “Are you going to help or not, Granger?”
Grudgingly, I opened up my book and began the prep work for the next few steps, handing the ingredients off to Malfoy exactly when he needed them. Surprisingly, we actually got into a fairly regular rhythm and barely exchanged more than ten words when we reached the stage to let it simmer for twenty minutes.
At some point during the class, we’d both oriented ourselves sideways so one of our elbows could rest on the table while still having the ability to hand things off and pour them into the cauldron. Now that we were done brewing for the moment, I became very aware of the close proximity we shared, and the effect the heady fumes the partially brewed Amortentia had, even with the lid on it. I glanced over at him, made eye contact, and immediately looked away, feeling a blush tinge my cheeks.
I didn’t understand why I was acting like an immature schoolgirl around him now that the potion was closer to completion. I’d managed to deal with him just fine for the past forty minutes, so I couldn’t quite understand what was happening now. Sneaking a glance at him through a curtain of hair, I noticed he looked more nervous than usual as well. Perhaps that was just the fact he was still trying to adjust to this new life position he held and how he was supposed to handle it. Glancing around the classroom, I noticed that those who were reaching the same stage as us were also becoming more self-aware of their actions with their classmates. Looking towards Professor Imohera lounging in his chair behind the front table, I noted his serene expression, his eyes closed in complete tranquility.
A loud bang made me jump. Almost simultaneously, the entire class turned to look at Seamus and Ernie. Foul black smoke bloomed from their cauldron, black soot covering both of their faces, both of who had shocked expressions etched on them. The rest of us burst out laughing at Seamus’s horrible luck with anything, and Ernie’s poor luck with being his partner for the rest of the term.
Professor Imohera swiftly cleaned up the mess with his wand and remarked, “The Headmistress warned me about your, what was it she said? Your ‘proclivity for pyrotechnics?’ I thought she was pulling one over on the new professor, but I guess not. You really do have the worst luck, don’t you, Mr. Finnigan?”
Seamus chuckled dismally, “Yeah, I do.” An approving chorus of chuckles and giggles filled the room.
“Well, you are welcome to start again with Mr. Macmillan’s cauldron if you are willing to come back over part of lunch to finish it,” Professor Imohera offered.
“Fine by me. I’d like to pass this class,” Ernie said. Seamus nodded in affirmation, and Ernie’s cauldron was retrieved, along with a new batch of ingredients.
I looked at the clock then, noticing it had been almost twenty minutes already. Subconsciously, I hit Malfoy on the arm and exclaimed, “Stir the potion, Malfoy!”
“Ouch! That bloody hurt, Granger!” he said as he opened the lid on the cauldron and began stirring the potion clockwise. “How long do I have to do this for?”
I peered at the instructions in my book. “Precisely two minutes and forty-five seconds. Don’t worry, I’ve already began counting,” I replied, silently thanking Merlin I’d looked at the clock right as he started stirring. Slowly the Amortentia began turning a lighter and lighter shade of blue until it hit mother-of-pearl and became opalescent. “Stop stirring in five,” I counted down, “four, three, two, one.”
Quickly, he removed the ladle and I threw in a pinch of crushed Ashwinder eggs and tapped my wand on the edge of the cauldron. Almost instantly, spirals of steam rose from the surface of the potion. Before either of us could breathe in more of the intoxicating potion, Malfoy re-covered it, and the heady feeling immediately evaporated from my body.
“Nice work, Malfoy,” I said, genuinely appreciative of his efforts in creating a good batch of Amortentia.
“You too, Granger,” he murmured.
Even with the lid on, the effects of the evaporated Amortentia were still strong enough for me to faintly smell things I didn’t want to smell. I inhaled too deeply on my next breath and caught a whiff of old books, fresh parchment, and something spicy-like I couldn’t place. However, I couldn’t lie to myself—the combination smelled positively marvelous and enticing.
Glancing over at Malfoy, it looked like he’d inhaled some of the fumes as well. A quick contortion of his face made me wonder if he had smelled something that confused him. He looked over at me, smirked, and looked away.
“What?” I pried.
“Oh, nothing. I was just curious to see whether you still smell the same things you smelled sixth year,” he quipped. “I believe it was new parchment, freshly mown grass, and…spearmint toothpaste.”
He plastered a smug smile on his face, knowing his memory to be correct. The fumes from the Amortentia giving me confidence, I snarkily replied, “Actually, I don’t. Clearly I’m not attracted to the same kind of people I was when I was sixteen.”
Malfoy raised an eyebrow. “Oh, is that so? Well then, please enlighten me on what attracts you now,” he said, putting his slender hands together at the fingertips and resting his index fingers on his lips.
“Fine. I still smell the fresh parchment, but now it’s mixed in with old books and something spicy,” I told him. “What do you smell, then, Malfoy?”
He kept his hands where they were, muffling the words coming out of his mouth. “A dusty library, strawberries and lilac, and fresh ink.” To me, those all seemed very different, so I could see why he’d looked confused earlier.
We fell into another uncomfortable silence then. It seemed they were following us around and pouncing on us whenever we were attempting civil conversation, effectively ending them before they could even fully begin. The Amortentia seemed hell-bent on ruining any chance of normal conversation, so I just looked anywhere but at my fellow Head.
I observed the slight changes Professor Imohera had made to the dingy classroom in an attempt to brighten it up and make it seem less dismal. He’d added several more torches along the walls to give the room more light. There were now fancy-looking plum-colored curtains hanging above each shelf, hiding the ingredients and potions held upon them. The wooden storage cabinets were now stained a rich chestnut brown and labeled in elegant beige script. My eyes finally came to rest upon the object I’d been avoiding for the last ten minutes: Malfoy.
The attitude he projected towards his peers and professors was much different than the one I was currently privy to, when he thought no one was watching him. He was much more relaxed in the shoulders, though his leg still bounced in either bored or nervous rhythm. His white-blond hair, still perfectly messy, had a bit of a crushed ingredient in it, and it took all my strength not to reach out and brush it out of his soft locks.
I shook my head, hard. What the hell was that? I looked towards the Amortentia, spiral swirls of steam still escaping from the vent of the lid and I exhaled slowly. This stupid potion is fogging up my brain! For the next few minutes, I focused on taking small breaths through my mouth, being extremely careful not to inhale through my nose so my sense could clear out the Amortentia fumes and their effects.
Professor Imohera finally declared, “All right, time’s up for those of you who have successfully completed your potions. Just leave them on your tables and I’ll collect the samples from them for you. Mr. Finnigan and Mr. MacMillan, the two of you may continue brewing. Two feet of parchment about the uses and effects of Amortentia and how it can be used offensively and defensively are due on my desk by Thursday. Class dismissed!”
Malfoy and I shoved our books into our bags and followed the rest of our peers out of the small classroom and into the slightly stuffy air of the dungeon corridor. I didn’t even care that it was musty—it was like a fresh summer breeze in my nose and lungs, free from the confining scent of the Amortentia. Leaving Malfoy’s side, I joined Ron and Harry up front and badgered them about their partners and how their potions went.
We talked and laughed just like old times all the way to the Great Hall. It was a great thing, feeling like I’d finally come home to a place that actually seemed like home again. Our party joined the crowd of other students going to lunch. Smiling to myself, I was happy to notice that the majority of my peers were also finally settling back into the Hogwarts atmosphere we’d all come to know and love, simply putting our grief and painful memories aside for the moment. Merlin knows that’s what I’d been doing for the past couple of days, and it was causing the beginnings of a migraine. I ate quickly with Harry and Ron, dismissing myself from the table and returning to my room for a quick nap before my first lesson as a student professor.
Lunch couldn’t have come sooner after that Potions class. I really enjoyed Professor Imohera and how he decided to take on the class, but just having to brew Amortentia and inhale its intoxicating fumes for almost an hour messed with a bloke’s head far too much. Thankfully what I smelled from the fumes was still the same as sixth year, which meant Ginny. Unfortunately, we had a class of Care of Magical Creatures standing between lunchtime and us. Grudgingly, I’d continued on with the course for Hagrid’s sake. A few of the other Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs had done the same, but the rest had dropped it.
After class was over, I noticed Hermione’s exhaustion beneath her carefully constructed mask of happiness as we walked towards the Great Hall for lunch, so I gave her knee a light squeeze to let her know I was okay with her leaving early.
After lunch was over, about half of the seventh years went to Divination while the rest of us had a free period. Ron and I wandered out onto the grounds towards the tree Hermione and I had been sitting in yesterday. Once we were settled in the tree’s low-hanging branches, I asked him the question I’d waited to ask him all summer.
“What happened with you and ‘Mione?”
Ron’s eyes narrowed and red tinged his cheeks. “What do you mean? You were there for most of it, you saw with your own eyes what happened.”
“No, I mean, why did she break things off with you? She never told me and you didn’t either,” I clarified. “I just want to know if you still have feelings for her, is all.”
Ron sat up straighter and said, “Oh, right. Well we fought a bloody lot, as you know. It just wasn’t meant to be I guess,” he scratched his head. “But I don’t know if I still have feelings for her yet. It’s been a while since we’ve all been together and she hasn’t even been here half the time so I really can’t say yet, mate.”
I feared that’s what he would say; I just knew he’d find out about the next bloke Hermione had a crush on and he’d want to tear him apart. My mind couldn’t help but flit to Malfoy, and the whole idea that she had to live with that traitor irked me to no end. I know I vouched for him in his trial because I believed he could changed, but also just because he was the same scared boy I used to be who just didn’t have the right choices like I did.
“Speaking of Hermione, did you see how close Malfoy was to her in Potions?” Ron’s voice sliced through my thoughts.
“In all honesty, I was trying to brew a complicated potion, not ogling at Hermione and Malfoy,” I feigned sarcasm, but in reality I had similar concerns as he did.
Ron held up his hands defensively. “All right, Harry! Merlin, I just wish we could be there to protect her from that slimy git. I don’t care if he’s Head Boy because Dumbledore wanted him to be—he doesn’t deserve it,” Ron said meanly.
I clapped a hand on his shoulder. “You know better than I do that Hermione can take care of herself just fine without us there. She’s probably the only one who could survive alone in the woods out of all three of us, anyway!” I said lightly, ignoring the nagging thought at the back of my mind.
Ron chuckled and replied, “Yeah, you’re right. Come on, it’s almost time for Defense!”
We jumped down and traipsed back into the castle, book bags slung over our shoulders and our emotions much happier than they had been. As we went to the third floor, neither of us noticed a small floating shape behind a suit of armour.
A/N: It's probably best I give a huge shoutout to my amazing beta, Mischief_managed18! She motivated me all through NaNo and got chapters back to me with such great speed, I don't know how I would have survived NaNo without her! You know the drill down below :)