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Chapter 12 : xii. the art of love [or] nothing is sacred anymore
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“The trick was in the pomegranate juice,” I explain. “Pomegranate juice, because of its association with Hades and Persephone, is always going to have slightly sinister and nonconsensual connotations. The powdered moonstone and rose oil are fine – though I substituted the red rose for pink – but the pomegranate juice added a layer of compulsion. I’ve replaced it with essence of narcissus, which causes a less harmful form of infatuation – ”
“Less harmful?” Albus repeats. “Dude drowned himself in a pond.”
“It’s less harmful because it doesn’t actually involve acting upon those desires. Making eloquent speeches, maybe, general swooning – but there’s no desire for physical contact. Which means, in a nutshell – I’ve made the Hollyjuice Potion.”
“Have you tested it?” Lester asks.
“Test it,” he says firmly.
I sigh, filling a vial with the potion. “Fine. Who wants me to fall in love with them for…” I scrutinise the amount in the vial. “Ten minutes?”
“Ooh, ooh, pick me,” Holly says immediately.
Scrunching up her face, Holly plucks a strand of hair from the top of her head and carefully lowers it into the vial. It fizzes slightly before settling into a smooth, pearly liquid.
“None of you are allowed to hold this against me,” I tell them, wondering briefly what my mother would say if I end up poisoning myself with a prototype love potion, before taking a deep breath and raising the vial. “For science!”
The good thing about love potions is they always taste amazing, and I take a moment to congratulate myself on getting this part right before the giddiness overtakes me.
It’s the weirdest ten minutes of my life, being under a love potion. I imagine it’s what being drunk is like (I have no experience with that, so it’s not really a point of comparison) I’m perfectly lucid, perfectly capable of rational thought – except those rational thoughts are inexplicably caught up in thoughts of Holly. I imagine myself as quite the romantic, making passionate speeches and declarations, and staring at her, always staring – has she always been this beautiful? How have I not noticed before? –
Then, just as abruptly as it started, the potion wears off and I’m left with almost no memory of the last ten minutes, except for the vague impression that I’ve made a massive dick of myself.
“Well,” Scorpius says, an odd look on his face, “At least we know it works.” The odd look turns out to be the face he pulls when he’s trying very hard not to laugh, and he gives up all pretence and guffaws, holding his sides and gasping for air.
I glance around the rest of my traitorous friends, who are all in similar states. Holly has tears of mirth in her eyes, and at my affronted look she hoots, “You – you said that – ” and dissolves into incoherent laughter again.
“We’re definitely using Hollyjuice for Valentines,” Albus concludes.
“I’m not sure I want it to be called that,” Holly says, having recovered enough to talk in full sentences. “Not after I’ve seen what it does.”
“Well, she was making all those spectacular sonnets about you, so I think it’s quite fitting,” Scorpius says.
“I composed sonnets?” I ask, stunned.
“You did. I mean, they were shit, but they were metrically correct and very, very funny.”
“Oh my God.”
“You don’t remember anything?” Holly asks.
“I remember staring at you for a while.”
“You did,” Holly says solemnly. “Almost the full ten minutes, actually.”
“I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate Rose on her success,” Albus says, smirking. “And on the beautiful poet’s heart that lies within. May nobody ever awaken it again.”
“I hate you all,” I grumble, and set about decanting the Hollyjuice Potion into a set of vials.
“So what have you got planned for this stuff?” Lester asks.
“Well, I figured I’d put a bit of it in every box of Valentines chocolates – ”
“Didn’t your dad get dosed with love potion chocolates once?”
“Yeah, that’s where I got the idea. Anyway, we put a little in each chocolate – ”
“I’m getting there, I’m getting there. I thought briefly about Louis, but he’d enjoy that too much, and half the school has a crush on him anyway so there’s nothing new there. So. Who’s the best possible target for this sort of thing?”
“Professor Sprout?” Scorpius suggests.
“Nah, nah, nah. Professor Vector,” Albus counters.
“I don’t think we’d see out the end of the year if we did that to Professor Vector. No, no. We don’t put any hair in the potion at all. That way it’ll target the first person the consumer sees. Which means we’ll get a large number of people following Argus Filch around, because he’s in charge of delivering the Valentines this year.”
“How do they even decide that anyway?” Albus asks.
“Whoever draws the shortest straw in the staffroom,” Holly replies matter-of-factly. “Professor Vector was complaining about it last year.”
“And then we’ll get equal numbers of people falling for random classmates, best friends – that is perfect, Rose.”
“I do try,” I say modestly.
Of course, there are still plenty of logistics to work out – namely, how we’re going to get the Hollyjuice into every single box of chocolates delivered to students on Valentines Day. Albus immediately volunteers himself and Scorpius for the task.
“No,” I tell him. “This is a time-sensitive operation, I can’t have you two making out or doing…other things in Filch’s office.”
Albus wrinkles his nose. “We would never.”
“Not in Filch’s office, anyway,” Scorpius says. “Besides, we can keep our hands off each other long enough to get things done. Look! I’m nowhere near him.”
“We have essential resources,” Albus says. “Resources crucial to the success of the operation.”
“If you mean the Cloak, you could pull your head out of your arse and lend it to me – ”
“Absolutely not,” Albus says immediately. “But it’s not just the Cloak. I have something else.”
“Care to share?”
Albus lowers his voice. “James bequeathed it to me.”
“James isn’t dead,” Scorpius says flatly. “So he didn’t bequeath it to you.”
“James gave to me, then. Rose, any idea what it might be?”
I think back to the endless conversations I’ve had with my parents as they reminisced about Hogwarts – or more to the point, all the times they fucked shit up at Hogwarts and how uncle Harry helped (according to Dad) or enabled (according to Mum) the fucking up of said shit.
“No,” I whisper. “He didn’t.”
“He did,” Albus confirms. “He always said he wouldn’t give it to me until I could say the words truthfully. So when I told him about the scholarship over Christmas, he said it was time I had it.”
“What the hell are you guys talking about?” Holly asks.
“This.” Albus reaches into his robes, drawing out a battered old bit of parchment and tapping it with his wand. “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.”
We crowd around in awe as the Marauders Map appears in all its glory, an ink-and-paper castle alive with little footprints and names.
“Look, there we are!” Holly says excitedly, jabbing her finger into the middle of what the Map identifies as the Ravenclaw common room.
“This is extraordinary magic,” Lester says reverentially.
“It is,” Scorpius agrees. “To think Albus shares genetic material with one of the men who made this.”
“Oi,” Albus says, affronted.
“Albus, you know he has the greatest respect for your magical ability – ”
“I do,” Scorpius says, “But, I mean – they were Animagi. You have failed to live up to the glory of your ancestors.”
“The glory of my ancestors?” Albus repeats. “Calm down, Caesar Augustus.”
“Don’t call me that, I like it too much.”
“Do you now – ”
“Guys,” I interrupt. “You have an audience. And we have a mission.”
They turn back to the Map, looking sheepish.
“Your best bet is to get into Filch’s office on the night of the 13th – any earlier and you’ll miss some, because everyone in this castle is a slave to procrastination. Don’t – and I shouldn’t have to say this, but better to be safe than sorry – don’t send each other chocolates. Lester, warn Lily.”
“Why?” Lester asks, confused. “I won’t be sending her any.”
“Oh, my sweet summer child,” Albus says, patting Lester on the shoulder.
“Lily is – popular,” I say delicately. “She gets a tonne of Valentines every year from boys convinced that they’ll win her heart with some overpriced confectionery and a bouquet of lilies – ”
“Poor girl,” Albus says, giving an exaggerated shudder.
“But she’s not single,” Lester says, still wearing his confused look. “Why would they – ”
“Because the vast majority of boys at this school don’t understand the word no. They don’t heed it when she’s not interested, they’re not likely to heed it just because she’s in a relationship. Except this time, all her cards will be full of ‘I love you more than he does,’ and ‘I’m twice the man that Lester is,’ and ‘You should be with a nice guy like me rather than an arrogant douchebag.’”
Lester seems to struggle with a response for a while, before eventually bursting out with, “They seem to be missing the fundamental point that – God knows why – she wants to be with me!”
“Exactly. God forbid they actually consider her in all of this. So anyway, tell her not to eat any chocolates she gets.”
Lester lapses into a troubled silence and I, deciding I’ve dropped enough uncomfortable truths for the evening, make my excuses and flee to my dorm. Unfortunately, no refuge can be found from the hell known as Other People’s Love Lives.
“Rose!” Lara wails when she spots me in the doorway.
“I did something really, really stupid!”
“I slept with Louis!”
I wrinkle my nose. “Why?”
“I don’t know! He’s fit! It was a crime of opportunity!”
“Do you like him?” I try not to sound too dubious, because it’s Lara and we’re friends and I should try to be supportive.
“Nope. Just his face. Didn’t even let him talk. Is that bad?”
“Er. I wouldn’t know.”
“What am I going to do?”
“Do you need to do anything?”
“Well – ” Lara flounders.
“Do you plan on doing it again?”
She pauses. “No. No, once was enough. He’s really not that good – ”
“Enough,” I interrupt, holding up a hand. “He’s still related to me, don’t need to hear it.”
“But he keeps trying to talk to me,” Lara continues. “He even asked me to Hogsmeade for Valentines weekend, and I can’t tell whether he’s setting something up for that ridiculous prank war you guys have going, or whether he’s actually gotten himself attached to me…”
I can’t help but grin at that prospect. Lara Talbot has, through tireless dedication to the cause, earned herself the universal title of ‘total bitch’ according to Hogwarts boys – a title she wears with some degree of pride and no small amount of irony. She is, in reality, anything but a bitch – she just declines boys when she wants to decline them, accepts when she wants to accept them, and holds declarations of love from horny teenage boys in the contempt they deserve. She’s a hero among women, and the idea that Louis, king of misogynistic douchebags, has somehow fallen for her makes me believe wholeheartedly in karmic retribution.
“I don’t see why he’d target you in the prank war,” I tell her.
“Ugh. So I have to get rid of him somehow?”
“You have extensive experience in getting rid of annoying dudes, Lara.”
“Most of them weren’t in our year though.” Lara sighs heavily. “It sucks being seventh year – there’s no one older than you, and I never go younger –I have classes with Louis.”
“Just ignore him,” I advise. “He’ll be after someone else soon enough.”
At 2.13am on Valentines Day, Albus and Scorpius return triumphantly to the common room.
“The deed is done,” Albus informs me, pulling the Cloak off. “A total of one hundred and seventy-six boxes of Hollyjuice-laced chocolates will be delivered to Hogwarts’ lovers, sweethearts and honeys in the morning.”
“Good work, guys,” I tell them. “Did a kitchen run earlier, help yourselves.”
“Ooh, don’t mind if I do.” Albus peers at the spread on the table in front of him. “What’s the occasion? All-nighter?”
“Naturally,” Lester says, yawning. “We’ve got eighty lines of the Fountain of Fair Fortune to get through tomorrow, and that essay on Veritaserum for Llodewick’s due first thing, and Rose says you’ve got a practical test for Defence, Scorpius, and Holly and I have just finished our Arithmancy – ”
“And my essay on World War II is due tomorrow as well,” Albus concludes with a groan. “I hate seventh year.”
We get started on the Runes first, though we’re all too impatient and too worried about everything else we need to get done that we just copy off Scorpius, who takes us through the grammar at lightning speed. We finish by 3am and get started on the Veritaserum essay, with me feeding everyone the answers, and by the time the world outside is beginning to lighten Albus has moved onto the final paragraphs of his Muggle Studies essay and Scorpius and I are duelling with every NEWT level Defence spell we know.
Lester disappears to shower, and after I’m satisfied that I can handle every spell that could possibly come up in the practical I do the same. There’s nothing like a long, hot shower at the end of an all-nighter, and I emerge feeling infinitely more human, proud of what I accomplished overnight and really, really keen to see the results of the Hollyjuice prank.
It doesn’t take long. Wednesday is Potions first for the seventh-years and Transfiguration for the sixth-years – both extremely popular NEWT subjects that guarantees most of the senior students will be out of bed for them. Even those who would otherwise be sleeping through their free period come down to the Great Hall in the vague hope of getting Valentines from secret admirers during breakfast – or laughing at those who obviously sent them to themselves.
Filch starts doling out the chocolates, and almost all the recipients, after reading the messages within and glancing around eagerly for the sender, abandon their breakfast in favour of their Valentines sugar fix. Trying to look as innocent and nonchalant as possible, we pile our plates with toast, eggs and sausages and start chatting about schoolwork as we wait for the inevitable chaos.
“It’s going to look suss,” Scorpius whispers, nudging Albus. “That we didn’t get each other chocolates.”
“Chocolates are for heteros,” Albus whispers back.
The first shouts of “Hey, what the fuck?” are ringing out from across the Great Hall now, as the suddenly lovestruck confess their feelings to the suddenly beloved. I count three people – two girls, one boy – get up and follow Filch out of the Great Hall, and seven more are staring rapturously across the Hall at random students they’ve never met but who happened to cross their line of vision at an unfortunate time. At least a dozen seem to be swooning over their best friends, and it takes another five minutes before someone – who turns out to be Logan Fenwick, a seventh-year Puff friends with Sophie – calls out, “I think someone’s spiked these things with love potion!”
To top it all off, Professor Llodewick stalks past muttering under his breath, “Oh, for fuck’s sake. It’s Beauxbatons all over again.”
“Wonder what happened at Beauxbatons,” Lester murmurs.
“I think we can hazard a guess.”
A/N: "Oh, my sweet summer child" is from A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin.
'The Art of Love' is the translation of the title of Ovid's poem, Ars Amatoria.
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